A HUSBAND who failed to comply with court orders that he transfer more than $100,000 held in a superannuation account to his wife as part of a property fight has been jailed for contempt under the Family Law Act.
Federal magistrate Joe Harman said he was "regrettably, and in the most unfortunate circumstances of this case" forced to impose a nine-month jail term on the man who had spent the money, in large part, on prostitutes and gambling.
It is believed the man, who was ordered to give himself up last week, is now serving time in a NSW jail. A spokesman for the court said no appeal papers had been lodged.
Referring to the property fight, which began in 2007, the magistrate said in his judgment: "The matter is tinged with some particular sadness and tragedy in that these parties had been married and in a relationship together for something in the order of 24 years and at this point would appear, financially, to have lost everything."
Known by the pseudonym of Mr Weirs, the jailed man is 56. His wife, who sought the contempt order under a rarely invoked provision of the Family Law Act, is 51. The marriage had resulted in three children, now adults, the youngest 18.
Mr Harman noted that during the relationship, they had not only raised their three children but also during the relationship and at the date of separation " accumulated not insubstantial assets". This included a small farm property and commercial premises as well as the super, which the man had been ordered to pay his wife during the course of the protracted proceedings that started in 2007.
Acknowledging the grave step taken in jailing the man, he said he was "satisfied that due process has been afforded to both parties and most particularly to Mr Weirs".
"The husband's dealing with the funds has had the effect that Ms Weirs has been deprived entirely of what would ordinarily be referred to as 'the fruits of her litigation'," he said.
Evidence from a doctor that Mr Weirs who had care of one of the children, included the information: "[that he] dedicated himself to his son but gambling remained a major problem."
When asked about "other compulsions", a depressed Mr Weirs had confirmed he "was using prostitutes on a weekly basis".
The magistrate said: "Mrs Weirs similarly was labouring under financial difficulties and had the care of a child of the marriage. She did not have the benefit or receipt of $116,000 to expend on gambling, prostitutes or any other activity."
Retired Family Court judge John Fogarty said people who flouted orders under the Family Law Act were rarely sent to jail, but contempt needed to be available as it backed up the authority of a court.