The value of a post-nuptial agreement in protecting wealth was illustrated recently when a property developer with assets said to be worth more than £30 million was able to persuade the court that a post-nuptial agreement signed by his ex-wife should be binding on her. Although the couple had known each other for two decades, their marriage lasted only two years.
Shortly after divorce proceedings were commenced, the husband attempted to obtain his wife's agreement that her financial settlement on divorce should consist of two properties, a car and £75,000. She took legal advice and her solicitor specifically advised her against making the agreement. After further negotiation, she agreed to a divorce settlement worth approximately £2 million.
Although her solicitor was unhappy with the result, the woman insisted that the agreement should be finalised.
Sixteen months later, she applied to the High Court to challenge the agreement, claiming that she had agreed to it under duress from her husband and that she had not properly taken in the advice given to her by her solicitor, again blaming this on pressure being put on her by her husband.
The Family Court heard that she had been to see her solicitor on several occasions and it was not satisfied that evidence had been produced which was sufficient to show that coercion had been used to persuade her to sign the agreement.
Accordingly, the Court ruled that the agreement was binding.
The hearing lasted more than three days, and the legal costs of the dispute were several hundred thousand pounds.
The courts have shown themselves willing to uphold agreements between married couples and those about to get married when these have been entered into freely and with the benefit of legal advice on both sides. Such agreements should not therefore be entered into lightly.