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Court Enforces Pre-Nuptial Agreement

When the marriage of a wealthy couple broke up, the English court had the opportunity to consider the impact of two pre-nuptial agreements the couple had made before they wed.

The couple, both Swedes, married in 2000 and had had two children by the time they separated in 2015. They have lived in the UK since 2011, hence why their divorce was dealt with under English law. Their divorce was made final in 2016, at which time the Family Court concluded that their joint assets were worth in excess of £10 million.

However, they had entered into pre-nuptial agreements in Sweden and in the USA (where the husband worked) in 2000, under which the wife agreed to waive entitlement to any capital payment from the husband in the event that their marriage was dissolved.

She argued that the agreements were entered into by the husband's misrepresentation and also that they were so unfair that the court should decline to enforce them.

However, evidence was given that before she signed the agreements, she was advised to take independent legal advice.

In a case that contained many complexities, the judge concluded that 'the parties did consensually enter into one or more pre-nuptial agreements and that, at the time when they were entered into, the effect of the agreement or agreements was not vitiated by factors such as fraud, misrepresentation or undue pressure'.

The settlement ordered was largely one dealing with maintenance of the ex-wife and children, giving the wife £2 million from the proceeds of the sale of the matrimonial home in order to provide accommodation for the family until 12 months after the last of their children ceases full-time undergraduate education. In addition, the ex-wife was awarded annual maintenance of £95,000 per year.

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    The ex-wife can pursue claims in Sweden, but as far as the British courts are concerned, a properly executed pre-nuptial agreement, entered into with the benefit of legal advice, is clearly an agreement that will be difficult to contest successfully.

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