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It only happens in the movies

View profile for Georgina Stavrou
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If ever there were a paradigm example of a case which demonstrates the need for more certainty in the law of financial remedies and nuptial agreements, this is surely it”. Those were the words of Judge Nicholas Cusworth at a recent financial remedies hearing in the High Court.

The case involved an unnamed file-maker in his 50’s and his wealthy heiress wife in her 40’s who, after approximately 13 years of marriage, were in the process of getting a divorce. As part of the divorce the parties sought to deal with the division of their matrimonial assets. The wife sought a clean break as the parties had entered into a financial agreement prior to their marriage, in which promises were made that they would forgo their financial claims in the event of a divorce.

The husband however, sought to challenge the agreement in the divorce proceedings on the basis that he had not fully understood the implications of the pre-nuptial agreement when he signed it. According to him he had “switched off” when he was being advised in relation to the enforceability of the agreement.

The interesting thing about this case is the financial information that came to light in the financial remedies proceedings. During the proceedings it was revealed that the husband’s income from his small productions company together with his royalties, were in fact ten times lower than what he had told his wife before they were married.  This suggested that the husband had exaggerated his income at the time of marriage to avoid his wife-to-be thinking that he was marrying her for her £37 million fortune. Judge Cuswirth described the film-maker as having “misled the wife and her financial advisers as to his financial status, so that he could be assured that the marriage would happen.

Having regard to the husband’s behaviour leading up to the marriage, the Judge refused to ignore the pre-nuptial agreement entirely. Although the Judge agreed with the wife that ‘considerable weight’ should be given to the agreement, he still awarded the husband £1.7 million to meet his housing needs, and a lump sum of £215,000 due to his true financial circumstances.

Although the facts of this case seem to resemble a Hollywood movie script, what’s important about this case are the comments made by Judge Cusworth regarding the need for clarity and reform in financial remedy cases, particularly where the parties have entered into a pre-marital agreement as they did in this case.

If you are considering entering into a pre-nuptial agreement and require legal advice please contact our specialist family lawyers for advice on 020 7935 3522.