“Yes, I forged his signature on property documents, but the house was rightfully mine.” Which case won?
Husband and wife buy property together
A husband and wife met in 1990. Two years later they married and bought a house, property P. They were described as tenants-in-common in equal share on the Torrens Title Register and the certificate of title. The husband was also owner of another property, property B.
The marriage was troubled and in 1999 the couple separated. They filed for divorce in 2000.
According to consent orders issued by the Family Court, the husband and wife would each be the sole legal and beneficial owner of one half of property P.
Property P used as location for running business
The husband and wife had a business partnership. Part of this business involved making polystyrene beer holders. This work was conducted out of various locations, including property P.
Between 1999 and 2004, the husband paid the wife $500 per week for this labour.
There were complications around these payments and periods when the husband would not provide the funds to the wife, which caused problems.
Wife sells property P without advertising on market or involving real estate agent
In 2003 the wife sold property P without notifying her ex-husband that the sale was taking place.
She did not contact a real estate agent in order to sell the property and she did not advertise it on the market in any way.
Instead she initially offered the property for sale to friends, but when this was not successful she found a buyer by approaching a person she saw leaving a property inspection of a unit that was advertised for sale not far from her house.
Wife’s cousin poses as ex-husband in meetings with solicitor
The wife met with a solicitor on several occasions in 2003 to discuss the ownership and sale of property P. She brought her cousin with her to these meetings to pose as her husband.
The wife told the solicitor that her husband did not speak English well and that was why he was not speaking during their meetings. The solicitor accepted this and spoke in English only to the wife.
There were assistants in the office who could speak the language of the husband. The wife and the solicitor both knew this, but did not ask these assistants to help translate for the husband.
The solicitor was not suspicious of anything, because the wife had forged statements which were supposedly from the husband and which referred to her as “my wife”.
Settlement of property and husband’s discovery of sale
Property P was sold in September 2003 for $269,000. The wife achieved this by forging her ex-husband’s signature on the contract for sale of property P, on a document purporting to authorise her to sell the property, another document authorising her to receive all the proceeds of the sale and on the transfer of the property to the buyers.
In October 2003 the wife received approximately $266,000, being the net proceeds of the sale of property P.
When the husband discovered that property P had been sold without his knowledge and contrary to the orders of the Family Court, he sued his ex-wife for violating his rights to the property, claiming $134,500 as his share of the property, plus interest calculated to November 2011, amounting to a sum of $234,547.
The husband also sued his ex-wife’s solicitor for negligence.