Divorces are usually messy, this one (Rick v King, [2011] FamCAFC 200) more than most. Ms King filed for divorce from Mr Rick (pseudonyms by virtue of a court order) after three years of marriage. Rick responded by seeking a declaration that King’s failure to disclose that she had AIDS meant that the marriage had been procured by fraud and was therefore a nullity from the beginning. He was under the impression that a declaration of nullity would preclude a claim by her for a share of his property under Western Australia’s Family Law Act (FLA).

The FLA does provide that fraud will nullify a purported marriage, but as the judge at first instance and later the Family Court of Australia pointed out, this means fraud as to the identity of the other party or the reality of the marriage ceremony, not deceit inducing consent to the marriage. And Rick was wrong about the effect of nullity on a property claim too, but he could still presumably initiate criminal proceedings against King or a private tort claim.

Tough for Rick, but the right result if you think of the implications.

[Link available here].