Published: 3 February 2017
The wife of a millionaire has claimed that her husband tricked her into signing a prenuptial agreement in order to protect his £11m fortune. The wife claimed that she had been told by her husband that it was ‘just a piece of paper’, implying that she had been misled and duped into signing it.
The Swedish couple moved to England almost 17 years ago, after making the agreement whilst staying in a luxury hotel near Niagara Falls during a romantic break. However, their money-driven conflict has appeared in a High Court judge’s ruling on the latest stage of litigation.
The 49-year-old woman suggested that the agreement was unfair and that it should not be allowed to have an impact upon her divorce settlement. Although she is entitled to approximately £500,000 in accordance with the prenuptial agreement, she insists that she is entitled to half of her husband's £11 million fortune. The 50-year-old businessman disagrees with his ex-partner, stating that he was ‘clear from the outset’ regarding his terms of marriage, and that she knew that without the prenuptial agreement they would not wed. He also said that, as per the prenuptial agreement, she is ‘entitled to nothing beyond’ half of the value of a house that they shared in Berkshire.
In a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in late 2016, Mr Justice Francis oversaw the latest stage of the dispute. He said that the pair, who cannot be named, have two children, and started living together in 1994 before marrying in 2000. The marriage then broke down in 2014, with divorce proceedings beginning in both England and Sweden in 2015. As well as stating that the Berkshire house should be sold and both parties receivean equal share, Mr Justice Francis said that a judge in Stockholm should make the decision regarding the lump sum and maintenance claims made by the woman.
Mr Justice Francis also said that the woman described the events of the previously mentioned romantic break near Niagara Falls, in July of 2000: ‘She described how on either the Saturday or the Sunday she and (the man) were lying on the bed relaxing when the husband “got up and took a document out of his luggage and told me you will need to sign this prenuptial agreement before we go home on Monday” and that “he was very matter-of-fact”. She says that he told her that “it wasn't about me or us it was about his businesses”, and that he told her repeatedly that it was “just a piece of paper” and that it would not make any difference to her. Crucially she says “he told me if ever we divorced I would carry on financially just as before. Nothing would change. The prenuptial agreement would not make a difference to me. I should trust him, he said, because he had always looked after me. He made me feel guilty for implying that he might not stand by his word."’
Mr Justice Francis continued to say that the woman had made several notes in her diary during their romantic weekend, including: ‘Cosied up in the morning. Went to the Niagara Falls. Back to the hotel and had a massage and pedicure! Went for a walk and ate at a worthless Italian restaurant. Was at the hotel and watched a video. Signed the marriage papers.’
Despite the claims by the woman and the notes that were made in her diary, the judge said that the man ‘could not recall signing the agreement during the course of that Niagara weekend’, but also that he did concede that it was ’perfectly possible’.
Finally, Mr Justice Francis said that the husband ‘denied that the wife was in any way shocked or offended by the idea of a prenuptial agreement; he says that he made it clear from the outset that he would not marry without a prenuptial agreement and that marriage was simply not something that was particularly important to him.’
If you would like advice on pre- or post-nuptial agreements or if your relationship is on the verge of a breakdown and you are thinking about divorce then K J Smith Solicitors are here to help. Our team of family law professionals strive to deliver practical solutions that result in a positive outcome. For more information or to arrange a free 45 minute consultation, please contact K J Smith Solicitors today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor), 01256 584000 (Basingstoke) 01483 370100 (Guildford) or 01494 629000 (Beaconsfield).