Accredited Family Law Specialist


Brett Hartley is an accredited specialist in family law which means he is widely regarded by his peers as an expert. He also has a commerce degree to complement his law degree and so fully understands the workings of business.

Clients benefit from his specialist knowledge of complex family property disputes during relationship breakdowns. 

In his career as a family lawyer, Brett has acted for clients with a combined net worth of over ten billion dollars.  Examples of his successful outcomes with large family law disputes include the protection of the following assets:

  • A large rural enterprise in southeast Queensland worth over $100M
  • A business involving shopping centres, retail outlets, accommodation and tourist based enterprises worth over $400M
  • An international dispute involving substantial property and business interests in Hong Kong and Dubai worth over $200M
  • Australian manufacturing business located throughout Europe and the United States – worth in excess of $400M;
  • Representing founders and major shareholders of public companies involved in the health sector and the food sector, worth over $100M
  • Acting in matters in the Aviation industry worth over $100M
  • Representing many restaurant owners, retail stores and franchise businesses.

His expertise has assisted clients to maintain and indeed grow their business, despite a relationship breakdown.

Brett is particularly known for his technical skills in relation to high net worth financial matters and is regularly requested to present to other law firms, accountancy practices and financial services firms in relation to matters concerning property disputes.

Brett's Success Stories

“These are real life stories about successes that Brett has had for and with his clients – but relevant and personal details have been changed so as to hide any possible identification of the person/s involved”

Manufacturing business - Engineering sector

Brett was involved in acting for a client who had established a very successful engineering based business.  This business had grown throughout a long marriage where there were four children. 

The business had a substantial turnover with over 100 staff members.

One of the major difficulties in this matter was that the independent business valuation has produced a substantial value for goodwill.  In other words, the actual assets in the business were small compared to the size of the goodwill component.  

In other words, this was a business that had substantial maintainable earning, but did not have a substantial liquid set of assets. 

The business assets were somewhere in the vicinity of 20-30M, but the goodwill added a further 80-100M to the value of this business. 

There was nothing wrong with the business valuation.  This was a very successful business that had been built up by the entrepreneurial efforts of Brett’s client, but at the same time, there were important contributions made by the wife, who had raised the children and supported the husband in his business endeavours.

Ultimately at mediation the matter was able to be settled, despite the huge problems with the blue sky goodwill component. 

A settlement was structured whereby a substantial cash payment was made upfront to the wife, together with the transfer of property.  However, that alone was well below a percentage entitlement if one took the goodwill value at its highest. 

The difficulty here was the sale of the business was not a possibility and even if it could be sold, it was unknown as to whether the sale price in the commercial world would reflect the substantial profits. 

There were also difficulties with making long term payments over time as it is always best to try to have a clean cut when making a final matrimonial settlement. 

Payments over a few years are okay, but in Brett’s experience, payments over a long period of time are to be avoided if possible. 

Brett was able to secure a deal for the client that provided some further payments to the wife over a two – three year period, which enabled his client to maintain his substantial business interest.

The wife was also sensible in her position with her lawyers, by agreeing to take as much of the cash and substantial property, as well as payments over a reasonable period of time.  Whilst, it could be said that the wife was receiving less than her entitlement by taking a deal less than 50%, the reality is that it was still a substantial deal with a greater guarantee of monies being received now and in the future, rather than a very expensive long and lengthy battle where an outcome may be uncertain in the future. 

The lesson to be learned from this matter, is that one always needs to focus on trying to settle even when it looks impossible.  Entering into the Mediation, Brett had grave doubts about a settlement, however, a sensible commercial approach and a very intelligent and sensible lawyer on the other side enabled this matter to reach fruition and for both parties to be able to move on substantially with their lives with all major assets intact.

“These are real life stories about successes that Brett has had for and with his clients – but relevant and personal details have been changed so as to hide any possible identification of the person/s involved”

Brett acted for a client who had a substantial logistics business.  The relationship in this matter was a second relationship for both parties of about 20 years.  There were no children although each party had children from other relationships. 

The matter was somewhat difficult due to different contributions made by each party, but also due to the substantial growth of the logistic business over the later years of the marriage. 

The business was valued at about $30M and the other complication was that there was a third party (a 10% shareholder) who had risen up through the management ranks and was unrelated to the parties. 

The matter became further complicated due to some serious issue that the wife had been suffering from for some period of time.  The husband had contributed his business at the commencement of the relationship, but the business value at that stage was considerably less than current value.

The husband was also nearing retirement age and was concerned that his plans to pass over the business or to sell eventually to the 10% shareholder may be upset by a bitter and acrimonious matrimonial dispute.

After an extensive disclosure, valuations and mediation process, the parties were able to come to agreement and settle the matter without court litigation. 

This was a pre covid matter and the husband and his business partner were able to secure funding instead of making a cash payment to the wife and also transfer various properties to her to effect her settlement that was acceptable to both parties at Mediation.   

This was a matter that had many complex distinguishing features that made the matter look more difficult than what it was.  The success in this matter was concentrating on how best to provide a property settlement to the wife and to do that in a clean matter so to enable the husband to keep the business and also to keep the third-party business party onside.

Experienced commercial lawyers were involved in relation to the third-party deal eventually brokered (after the property settlement) with the 10% owner.  In making the detail of this deal and intentions of the husband known to the wife prior to the mediation, it assisted in the transparency and trust between the parties and helped them to reach a commercially sensible outcome.

Sometimes, matters can be more complex and the complexity of the matter can get in the way of common sense.  It is always important to make sure that you have all the details about all the little issues that can impact upon a settlement, but ultimately one must recognise counter arguments to each of those complex issues. 

In other words, just because our client also received a substantial inheritance before separation, plus controlled a business, it did not mean that other contributions by the wife (a substantial redundancy early in the marriage, as well as smaller inheritances during the marriage) did not deserve due credit.  There were competing arguments both with sold grounds as to how a Court may treat the different complex issues of the case. 

A successful outcome was obtained in this matter by knowing about those complexities but at the same time by still concentrating on a commercial common-sense outcome of the client, that enabled him to be able to keep his business and also his goodwill with his business partner for future endeavours.  

Our team’s speciality family law areas

Can I add back money my ex-partner has spent into our property pool?

15 February 2022, By Niki Schomberg of Hartley Family Law     When reviewing transactions in your ex-partner’s bank statements, it can be a tough pill to swallow seeing them spend significant funds on luxury holidays, fine dining and designer clothes, particularly …

Everything you need to know about filing for a Divorce in Australia

Written by Emily Woodhouse , 23 February 2023 There is only one ground for divorce in Australia; that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. Unlike many jurisdictions overseas, it is not necessary to prove adultery, insanity, desertion or any other ground. …

Can I Keep the Family Home after Divorce/Separation?

Written by Brett Hartley, 4 April 2023 This is a question we are most asked on a day-to-day basis from our clients and which we try to help them understand at an early stage the possibility and risks associated with keeping …

Valuations in Family Law during an Economic Downturn

Written by Brett Hartley, 6 April 2023 In a typical family law matter, we need to obtain valuations.  The main valuations we need to obtain are those of real estate property and in some cases, shares and business valuations. Single expert …

Family Law Mediation and How We Maximise Our Clients’ Prospects of Settling

Written by Brett Hartley, 6 September 2022 A family law mediation in Queensland is certainly not a typical collaborative type mediation (in most cases where parties sit in a room together and collaborate on best outcomes for each other).  Rather, especially …

The Uniqueness of Tax in Family Law Property Settlements – Some things you may not have known

Written by Brett Hartley, 6 September 2022 Tax is a complex subject and I do not profess to be an expert to tax or any form of revenue law.  However, in everyday family law property settlements, the incident of tax often …

What to expect at your family law mediation

Mediation is a commonly used alternative dispute resolution process to resolve parenting and financial proceedings out of court and avoid the time, cost and stress associated with proceedings. As we often represent clients at mediations, we have set out below some …

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