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Family Law Blog

When emotions run high

Posted by on 15 May 2013

We see it in movies and television shows. We see it across the media. Many of us, also, see it in our own lives. Separation can, in many cases, lead to devastating consequences for the families and children involved. Often, spite can play a big role in the downward spiral. While it is easy for an outsider to think, ‘how can someone behave that way?’ for the spouse involved, it is quite a different matter. More often than not they will think along the lines of ‘where did it all go wrong?’ or ‘how can I get revenge?’


Couples whose relationships have ended because they have “simply drifted apart” and don’t wish to engage in a dispute as to who keeps the house, the mortgage or about how much time they will each see the children of the relationship, generally do not appear in the Family Court. It is more usual that family lawyers will handle cases of deception, violence and infidelity. In these cases, it is common to see emotions run wild, often interfering with a party’s decision-making and conduct during proceedings.

Take, for example, the woman in Canada who planned a garage sale of her husband’s personal possessions on a weekend while he was “gone with his floozie”, having left the family “for a piece of trash.” The advertisement for the garage sale appearing in the Canadian newspaper, The Province on 13 March 2013 included comical spiels such as, “lots of tools, which he didn’t have a clue how to use.” Readers were told not to expect to purchase clothing, “as we will have already burned those in the driveway”. While such an act of revenge may have been satisfying for this woman, there are practical consequences of this sale of her husband’s possessions in family law proceedings. Not only would the woman be required to account for the sale proceeds but these would also likely to be factored into the final property settlement.

Closer to home, The Sydney Morning Herald on 29 March 2013 reported how the sophisticated tactics now predominantly featuring in family law proceedings – such as the use of private investigators, coaching children, recording conversations and interactions – are now becoming regular practice. Now, I must say very clearly that family lawyers do not condone such behaviour. Clearly, the manipulation of children to assist a spouse’s case in the Family Court is utterly unacceptable. If it is found to be occurring in the Court process, it will have a damaging impact on the spouse behaving in such a fashion. Courts also frown upon the increasing trend of spouses to record conversations – The Sydney Morning Herald also referred this to as ‘Gotcha tapes’ (see article dated 4 February 2013, “Gotcha tapes disliked by Court”). In some cases, such recordings may be considered as inadmissible evidence, in others, the Court may form the view that the parent making the recording is simply adding to the conflict between the parties. I again stress that family lawyers do not encourage such behaviours.

But why have things gone so far? Is it because some spouses are trying harder to hide assets and liabilities, or are we simply living in an increasingly paranoid society? The attitude of simply wanting to maximise an outcome, or minimise one’s loss, can also be unhelpful. What is useful, however, is to try to maintain a mindset that a property settlement is, in effect, a commercial transaction.

Our family law team at Coleman Greig Lawyers has experience in dealing with a wide range of circumstances in family law cases, including those where emotions are high, and we are able to assist you to resolve or eliminate a dispute arising from a separation. Should you wish to speak to one of our family lawyers, phone (02) 9635 6422 or email

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