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Privy Council considers family trust in matrimonial property case

Judgment to be handed down on 3 August 2020

On 3 August 2020 the Privy Council will hand down judgment in Webb v Webb, an appeal from the Court of Appeal of the Cook Islands.

The Judicial Committee, comprising Lord Wilson, Lord Carnwath, Lady Black, Lord Briggs and Lord Kitchin, will decide whether the Court of Appeal of the Cook Islands erred in determining the respondent's appeal in relation to her application for division of matrimonial property under the Matrimonial Property Act 1991-92.

The appellant and the respondent married in 2005 in New Zealand and had one child, a daughter, in 2006. In 2011, the New Zealand Inland Revenue Department opened an investigation into the appellant's affairs, resulting in significant tax debts. In 2013, the parties moved to the Cook Islands, where most of their assets were located. The assets were held by family trusts controlled by the appellant. On 7 April 2016, the parties separated. The respondent and their daughter stayed in the Cook Islands, while the appellant returned to New Zealand.

The respondent brought an application for division of matrimonial property in the High Court of the Cook Islands under the Matrimonial Property Act 1991-92. She challenged the validity of the family trusts and contended that the assets settled under them were matrimonial property. The appellant maintained that the trusts were valid and that, even if the relevant assets had been matrimonial property, their value was far exceeded by his deductible debts.

31/7/20