In February 2018 the Daily Telegraph newspaper announced that Barnaby Joyce was expecting a baby with his former staffer Ms Vikki Campion. This followed the announcement by Mr Joyce in December 2017 that he was separating from his wife of 24 years. Mr Joyce already has four daughters from his marriage who are aged between 15 and 20 years.
As we all know following the newspaper announcement of the impending birth of the new baby Mr Joyce had to deal with a lot of publicity and considerable pressure to give up his Ministerial position. Ultimately he made the decision to resign from that position and move to the backbench.
Recently Mr Joyce has hit the headlines again with questions hanging over the paternity of the child soon to be born to Ms Campion. He has purportedly told the media that the paternity of the child is a “grey area” but that he intends to raise the child as his own even if he is not the father.
Ultimately I expect that the answer to my question is no, no one can, in fact, save Mr Joyce from the mess that he has created for himself; however, let's explore what help he might actually need.
Mr Joyce has ended a long marriage to his wife Natalie, with whom he has children, some of which are not yet 18 years old. It is likely that during their time together he and his wife have accumulated assets and liabilities. Mr Joyce will no doubt require some family law advice to sort out a reasonable division of property with his wife, with such a division to include his (probably) significant superannuation and other future pension and employee type entitlements related to his years spent in Parliament.
Taking into account what the public knows about the situation, it is highly likely that Natalie will be entitled to a large portion of their joint matrimonial asset pool. She has publicly stated that she has supported Mr Joyce through his political career and put aside her own career to do so, and no one, including Mr Joyce has sought to dispute this.
It is also possible that she may be entitled to spousal support both now and in the future if she is unable to pay for her own expenses; and if Mr Joyce can afford to help her to do so.
Mr Joyce’s career (or lack thereof) moving forwards will have an effect on both the property settlement and spousal maintenance as his capacity for employment and income are both relevant here.
Mr Joyce will need to instruct a solicitor to formally record any agreement that he and Natalie reach in relation to property division and/or spousal maintenance to ensure that there are no further claims in the future. If an agreement cannot be reached between them, then he will need assistance to file proceedings in the Family Court system asking a court to make orders for an appropriate division of property and any necessary spousal maintenance orders.
He will also remain liable to pay child support for each of his children until they reach 18 years of age or longer if they remain dependent because they are studying.
Given that the children are teenagers and older it is apparent that each of them will have a strong say in terms of where they want to live. Mr Joyce himself has acknowledged that it has been somewhat difficult to build his relationship with his daughters due to the commitments of his political career. If Mr Joyce’s relationship with his children breaks down, then he may need some advice about how he can best rebuild those relationships and legally whether he can seek some orders in the Family Court system, to spend time with his teenage daughters. The adult daughters will of course make up their own minds on when they choose to see their Dad.
Once Mr Joyce and his wife Natalie have been separated for at least 12 months then we could assist him to obtain a formal divorce, legally ending their marriage. This would be highly recommended to ensure that the legal and financial relationship between them is properly terminated.
As the now de facto partner of Ms Campion, Mr Joyce will be legally presumed to be the father of her baby once it is born, that is assuming that they are still living together at the time of the baby’s birth. He will then have shared responsibility for making decisions for that baby.
Should Mr Joyce and Ms Campion separate then he will, of course, have a whole new set of problems to deal with. In that case he will be liable for child support for the baby until that baby is 18 years old or no longer financially dependent on Ms Campion. He will also face a potential claim for a property settlement (and/or maintenance) from Ms Campion on the basis that as they are living together and have a baby together they are legally considered to be in a de facto relationship which may then give rise to such a claim.
If Mr Joyce remains unsure about the paternity of the child then he could seek to have a DNA test to check if the baby is his or not. He would need Ms Campion’s consent to obtain a proper legal DNA test and if she was not prepared to agree to that, he would need to obtain a court order before that test could be done.
So it would appear that certainly Mr Joyce could benefit from some family law legal advice. Unfortunately, that advice would be that we cannot save him from the fact that he will have ongoing financial responsibilities to his wife and children; and faces paying a property settlement to his wife. In addition to that he now has legal responsibilities to Ms Campion and their baby.
And what about saving Mr Joyce’s political career? Well, only Mr Joyce’s colleagues and ultimately the public can decide if he still has a future in politics or if his personal choices have brought an end to those prospects.
Should you or anyone you know require family law advice due to personal circumstances that have led to a situation similar to that which Mr Joyce finds himself in, or that of his wife, our family law team is more than happy to provide our assistance to you or to them.