A “coercive, abusive and exploitative” man has been ordered to sell his two houses and give half the proceeds to the mother of his four children.
The man tried to argue in a relationship property dispute that he had not been in a de facto relationship, even though he and the woman lived as a couple for more than 12 years.
He also argued that a term of imprisonment the woman served was a “separation” which affected the division of their assets.
The woman had one of the man’s babies while she was in jail.
The Property (Relationships) Act 1976 provides that assets are generally divided equally in a de facto relationship which lasts more than three years.
Dennis Levitt* denied he and his partner had a relationship to which the law should be applied.
He claimed that the couple’s relationship fell into two parts.
In regard to the first part, he said it ended in 2012, so the claim for relationship property by his partner, Claudia Alden*, was “out of time”.
He said the second part, which ended with a verbal argument in 2015, had not lasted long enough for her to become entitled to half the property.
Family Court Judge Jill Moss said the pair had been apart for several weeks at the end of 2012, but only because Claudia was in prison.
“I specifically reject any suggestion that Claudia’s imprisonment marked a period of separation,” she said.
“There are a number of reasons for this. The first is that she bore a baby while in prison, which was Dennis’ baby.
“The second is that both Claudia and Dennis were prosecuted [for benefit fraud] on the basis that they were living together as a couple prior to the imprisonment and both pleaded guilty.”
Judge Moss said two properties acquired and lived in while the couple were together were still registered in Dennis’ name.
She ordered that they be placed on the market and the proceeds, along with the value of chattels and motor vehicles, be divided equally between the two.
“This relationship was abusive,” the judge said.
“None of Dennis’ evidence portrayed a commitment to anyone but himself.
“But length, progeny, common residence, and the adverse results of financial deception all lead to a positive finding of the existence of a relationship,” Judge Moss said.
* The couple’s real names cannot be used because their identities are protected under Family Court rules. The names used in this story are those used by the court in Judge Moss’ published decision.