War of the Roses in real life! A parenting case in the Family Law Court
In 1989, a movie starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner hit the big screen. The movie was essentially about a wealthy couple with a seemingly perfect marriage. When their marriage falls apart, material possessions become the centre of an outrageous and bitter divorce battle.
During their marriage the Roses purchased a beautiful old mansion. Upon the demise of their marriage, both become obsessively determined to keep the mansion and went to extraordinary lengths to get the other to leave.
The last scene of the story is the Roses clinging to a grand chandelier in the foyeur of the mansion that is about to fall... (which ironically Mrs Rose had loosened so that it would fall on Mr Rose and kill him).. in the movie, the Roses fall with the chandelier and are killed...
Fortunately, that last scene wasn\\\'t acted out in the real life version of War of the Roses ... (nor was the chandelier a feature .. )
Ms McIntosh appeared as Barrister for a Husband in a factual circumstance with some similarity to the movie War of the Roses.
The issues before the court were both property and parenting (4 children ranging in age from 5 to 13). The parties had lived separated under the same roof for nearly FOUR years as neither would leave the very large mansion-like matrimonial home which the parties had lovingly built in happier times. On realising the marriage could not be saved, both wanted the home, the children and the lion\\\'s share of the money. Neither would relent. The evidence disclosed a tense and stressful homelife marked with abuse between the parties and resulting violence between children. It could be fairly described as a family in crisis.
The Wife threatened the Husband she would take an AVO \\\'out on him\\\', no doubt hoping the Husband would leave. He didn\\\'t. The result of that was the Husband distanced himself from the family which was fast becoming dysfunctional. The Husband \\\'stepped\\\' in when things got out of control (such as one child stabbing another child in the head) but he could no longer function as a father figure or the disciplinarian which the three young boys needed for fear he would be accused of violence. The Wife was the passive abuser, using the children as a weapon against the Husband, telling them that he was \\\'mean\\\' and refusing to allow the Husband time with them alone. Financially, the Wife held most of the matrimonial property (in cash) in her name and refused to give any of it to the Husband. The tension and extraordinary living circumstances meant that everyone including the children were suffering. The parties needed a resolution and fast.
Extensive and detailed settlement negotiations were undertaken over several months leading up to hearing but the parties could not resolve their differences.
The hearing commenced and the Husband gave evidence and was cross-examined. As with the Roses, the Husband\\\'s sense of normality had altered whilst living under such stress for so long and this was evident in his evidence.
With leave of the court, settlement negotiations commenced in earnest outside the courtroom and the parties finally and painstakingly (with the help of Ms McIntosh and the Wife\\\'s Counsel), brought the parties to an agreement to end 18 years of cohabitation. In the end, they agreed to sell the matrimonial home, a 50:50 split of the matrimonial property pool and equal time with the children. A sensible arrangement and a win/win for the parties.
It was finally over for the Sydney \\\'Roses\\\' but in this story, the parties walked away alive and well.