The multimillion-dollar family law property dispute

11 March 2021

Acting for a financially outgunned party in a high value and hard-fought family law property dispute, we delivered what three sets of previous lawyers had been unable to – strategy, expert knowledge across disparate legal issues, forensic cut-through and practical advice that did not ‘sit on the fence’.


  • Client: the ex-wife of a member of an ultra-high-net worth family group mired in Family Court property proceedings
  • Location: Australia, United States and the Middle East
  • Situation: highly complex and ultra-high value property settlement dispute in family law divorce proceedings.  Large, complex and opaque web of companies, trusts, arrangements and investments in Australia, United States and the Middle East.  Obstructive counter-parties and legal representatives.  Limited key information disclosed.
  • Outcome: after bitter interlocutory disputes and extensive asset investigation and analysis in Australia, US and Middle East an informed settlement was reached
  • Key elements of success: commercial and investigative skills and analysis; compilation of the expert team; strategy; determination and grit; expert skills; trust.

In 2019 a valued client referred a close friend to us.  She was in the midst of hard-fought family law property proceedings with her ex-husband, a member of an ultra-high net worth family.  On her third set of family lawyers, her opponents were running rings around them, and there had been no cut through in obtaining key financial information to which she was entitled, and a proper understanding of the property and financial resources of the husband.

Needing expert investigative, commercial and trust law knowledge, Mackay Chapman were engaged.  We put together a specialist team based around our senior lawyers’ analytical and forensic skills, pre-eminent family law QC, commercial bar junior counsel, leading Australian forensic accountants and investigators in the Middle East.  Expert forensic analysis from Australian and international open-source information revealed the potential asset pool.  Backbreaking forensic analysis of legal structures and transactions broke down the potential assets and property and financial resource pool.  At the same time, we embarked on an aggressive programme of subpoenas against numerous entities associated with the family and their business interests.

While the interlocutory battle raged, setting the matter up for a further voluntary mediation, we quietly broke down the potential asset pool and provided our client with detailed and plain English advice on the potential asset and financial resource pools and high-to-low outcomes at trial.  A further mediation was brokered and our client entered it this time with a proper understanding of the assets, issues and her legal position.  The matter settled that day.