Ex-Queenstown couple in $59m divorce battle

The couple lived in a home in Closeburn Station in Queenstown but both now reside in Australia.
The couple lived in a home in Closeburn Station in Queenstown but both now reside in Australia.
A former Queenstown woman is battling to get her share of an estimated $59 million from her husband in a divorce fight.

Sophie Annabelle Biggs and Stephen Timothy Biggs began living together in 2010 and had a child before separating in 2016.

They lived in a $8.6 million home in Closeburn Station in Queenstown but both now reside in Australia.

That property, with views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables, has been on the market since last year.

Sophie Biggs is seeking half the couple’s relationship property and is also attempting to get a share of the wealth which she says her ex-husband has available to him through trusts and companies that she claims he controls.

Stephen Biggs, however, argues that he was wealthy when the relationship began. And he says whatever interest he has in the companies and trusts, it is not relationship property.

His position is that because his ex-wife is seeking a share of the substantial wealth he had before their relationship began (including properties he owns in Australia and Argentina), the case was not one where there should be equal sharing of relationship property.

Sophie Biggs’ accountant has estimated companies and trusts associated with Stephen Biggs are worth $59 million. Stephen Biggs, however, argues that this is at least a $25 million over-valuation.

Sophie Biggs asserts that the couple’s former family home, $16 million allegedly owed to her ex-husband by a trust and a company, Stephen Biggs’ shares in another firm and his $1.4 million superannuation fund is relationship property.

Stephen Biggs denies that Sophie Biggs has any entitlement against trust property or against him in respect of property owned by the trusts.

As part of the fight, both sides squared off earlier this year in the High Court at Invercargill over a series of applications — including on whether their names should be suppressed.

While Justice Gerald Nation was surprised that Sophie Biggs was arguing ‘‘so strongly’’ for the former couple’s identities to be revealed, he said principles of open justice favoured the move.

Sophie Biggs was also seeking further documents and information from her ex-husband but the judge declined to grant the discovery being sought.

Justice Nation ordered Stephen Biggs pay Sophie Biggs an interim payment of $200,000, which would be deducted from her share of relationship property. 

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