Does mum get claim over ex's estate?
A LEGAL debate over a mother's childcare obligations has emerged in what a Rockhampton judge is calling an unprecedented case.
Mackay's Jodie Snodgrass said she was entitled to bring a claim to her former partner's estate because she met the definition of a "dependant".
The executor of the estate wanted to strike out her application.
Ms Snodgrass and Michael McLaren lived in a de facto relationship until June 2015. They had a son in 2013.
Ms Snodgrass had been in well-paid employment. But in a judgment published this week, Justice Duncan McMeekin said she quit the job on medical advice when she became pregnant.
Mr McLaren then paid her a "wage" for household expenses.
The pair split and Ms Snodgrass left the shared house and found work.
The judge said the pair made an arrangement, alternating childcare every week.
Ms Snodgrass pursued a property claim against Mr McLaren. He pledged not to dispose of any property without a court order, or her consent.
When he died a year ago, the caring arrangement with grandparents started "chopping and changing" and Ms Snodgrass was concerned about her son's care.
In his will, Mr McLaren made his son sole beneficiary, except for a life interest in a nominated property granted to Ms Snodgrass. The son would receive his inheritance on turning 25.
"The precise worth of the estate is not yet known but may well be in excess of $2 million," Justice McMeekin said.
The executor, Mr McLaren's father, was to make payments for the boy's "maintenance, education, advancement or betterment".
Ms Snodgrass told the court she was bearing increased costs and meeting expenses her former partner used to meet.
Justice McMeekin said an issue was whether the concept of "support" was limited to direct financial contributions, and whether it was right to take into account "past events and future probabilities".
He said the case raised "a novel point" about whether a person caring for a child in an instance like this was obliged to give up employment to fulfil childcare duties.
"If, in order to provide the care that her son needs, the applicant reasonably gives up her employment or seeks less remunerative employment, can that provide a proper basis for the claim?
"To put the point another way, was the deceased in effect providing substantial support to Ms Snodgrass by taking on the care of the child in alternate weeks? He thereby freed up Ms Snodgrass's earning capacity."
Justice McMeekin said lawyers involved found no matching legal precedents.
The judge dismissed the application to strike out Ms Snodgrass's claim and reserved a decision on costs.
The parties were expected to agree on a timetable to get the case to trial.