The ex-wife of a former judge who went to court for a slice of his hefty estate almost three decades after their divorce has lost her bid.
The ex-wife of a former judge who went to court for a slice of his hefty estate almost three decades after their divorce has lost her bid.

Judge’s ex-wife loses bid for share of rich estate

THE ex-wife of a former Cairns District Court judge has lost her bid to get a share of his multimillion-dollar estate, 27 years after their divorce.

Justice Glenn Martin today found that Therese Ryan, who was married for five years to Brian Harrison, who later became a judge, was not a "spouse" entitled to make a claim.

Ms Ryan, a former barrister, in July made a Supreme Court claim for proper maintenance and support out of his estate.

It was opposed by the late Judge Harrison's widow, Rampai Harrison, an executor of the estate, who sought an order dismissing the application.

Harrison, who died in October, last year, aged 69, left the bulk of his estate to his third wife, Rampai Harrison, whom he married in 2018.

He had been a Rockhampton and Mackay barrister and judge for eight years.

Judge Brian Harrison died in October, 2019, aged 69.
Judge Brian Harrison died in October, 2019, aged 69.

Justice Martin said in his judgment that an application could be made by a deceased person's dependent former wife only if she was receiving or entitled to maintenance at the time of her husband's death.

Justice Martin said at the time of Judge Harrison's death, there was no court order still operating that he was to pay Ms Ryan maintenance.

He said under a 1992 Family Court order, Harrison, then a barrister, was to pay Ms Ryan $600 a month in maintenance, after the sale of their matrimonial home and some assets.

The payments were to continue until the couple's daughter commenced school or the ex-wife began full-time work, remarried or entered a permanent relationship.

Justice Martin said the daughter commenced school many years ago and Harrison's requirement to pay maintenance to Ms Ryan then ceased.

"On the evidence before the court, there is nothing to support a conclusion that Ms Ryan comes within the definition of spouse which would allow her to make the application," the judge said.

Justice Martin said Mrs Harrison's solicitors had told Ms Ryan's solicitors in December last year that she was not entitled to receive maintenance as a spouse of Harrison.

Ms Ryan's solicitor argued that she should be given an opportunity to investigate consequences flowing "from her assertion that it was the conduct of the deceased that prevented her from applying for maintenance".

Justice Martin said Ms Ryan's affidavit contained "many allegations of quite serious misbehaviour and violence".

He said there were some assertions that "she was unable to apply for maintenance because of her "high levels of fearfulness of the deceased while he was still alive".

Justice Martin said Ms Ryan swore in her affidavit that she had intended to make a Family Court maintenance application in 2018, but was unable to do so because of her health.

Ms Ryan's counsel, Gerard Forde, told the Supreme Court as a result of the treatment she received from Harrison, she was "psychologically unable to make that application".

Ms Ryan also claimed that Harrison had provided some maintenance to her outside of the Family Court terms of settlement, but did not say it was part of a contract or agreement.

Justice Martin said Ms Ryan was not entitled to bring an application under the Succession Act and he dismissed her application.

The judge also made an order that her affidavit was to be placed in a sealed envelope and was not to be opened without a court order.

He said the affidavit contained 210 paragraphs and about 100 pages of exhibits, and included accusations about people other than Harrison and "distant hearsay".

"Of the many scandalous accusations made against the deceased and other unnamed persons, there is an admixture of argument, invention based on hindsight and wishful thinking," Justice Martin said.

If Ms Ryan's application proceeded, large parts of the affidavit would have been struck out, the judge said.

*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636. 




Originally published as Judge's ex-wife loses bid for share of rich estate