Tuesday, February 28, 2012

'Unusual' relationship sees married couple invoicing each other for lightbulbs and minor bills

An Australian couple billed each other for items including a $1.60 light bulb during an "ambivalent" 20-year marriage. A magistrate left to split the pair's assets said their "unusual" and "pernickety" relationship had existed only for weekly social outings and luxury holidays. The pair, both in their 70s, married in 1991 but never moved in together - only spending weekends together at the wife's home.

The Federal Magistrates' Court heard they kept their finances separate and invoiced each other for amounts as trifling as 50 cents. They fought in court over whether the wife should contribute to a custom-made yacht the husband had built to sail the waters around Europe. The boat cost close to $600,000 and effectively sent him broke. While the wife's assets increased to close to $4 million during the marriage, the husband's assets shrank to $315,000.

The court heard one of the only things the couple did together was to take holidays. They went on trips to Britain, China, Spain, Alaska, South America and two cruises on the QE2 between 1994 and 2009. Magistrate Michael Baumann said the pair were occasional companions. "When an intelligent and creative mature age couple decided in 1991 to marry ... it might have been anticipated that 20 years later they may have at least preserved and enhanced their financial position and had many happy and shared moments," he said.

"Alas, nothing could be further from the truth in this case." Mr Baumann said the wife bore no responsibility for the boat and the pair should each keep what they had when they went into the marriage. "It is the husband's passion to be an ocean going sailor," he said. "The wife ... did not enjoy yachting and had no interest whatsoever."

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