The recent case in the High Court concerning a husband who did not wish to be kept to a pre-nuptial agreement whilst wife did highlights the fact, even in spite of any feelings of distaste, pre-nuptial agreement arranged subject to the scrutiny of the Court. 

In this case the husband ran a small production company and prior to the marriage within the pre-nuptial agreement declared assets of nearly £1.2 million and claimed he was earning £60,000.00 per annum. The true figure later turned out to be £6,000.00 whilst he claimed boxing royalties of £80,000.00 per year the real figure was £8,000.00. 

A financial agreement had been signed in 2002 not to make financial claims against the other in the event the marriage broke down. However, even though the wife and her advisors had been mislead as to the husband’s assets and income therefore believing the pre-nuptial agreement sound, nevertheless she was ordered to make a substantial payment to her husband to meet his needs receiving £1.7 million for a home and a lump sum of £215,000.00. 

Whilst the Court clearly confirmed in light of earlier cases such as Radmaker, the fact is there will still be a cross check to address whether the agreement is so manifestly unfair as to not meet a parties needs. Even in Court the husband suggested they add greater assets and income than was actually the case and overall he was found to be an unreliable witness who told substantive lies to the Court. Whilst clearly a man of some artistic ability the husband, it appeared, had never generated any income as a result of that ability and instead had used his wife’s money to indulge his artistic whims without needing to try too hard. 

Whilst the husband claimed to have fully understood the implications of the pre-nup and to have”switched off” when listening to his Solicitor telling him it was not legally binding, the Judge felt “that cannot absolve him of responsibility for the consequences of the document which he signed”. Considerable weight was given to the pre-nup in accordance with the wife’s wishes but the Judge felt the husband’s “reasonable lifestyle” needed to be maintained and the wife was obliged to do more than merely save him from destitution. The wording of the Judgment is somewhat unfortunate in the fact that the lines of the case authority talk about need, however, “reasonable needs” is always the mystery to be defined. 

As the Judge confirmed regarding the wife, “she entered into this marriage only upon the basis that the man agreed he would not make a claim, and yet she has nevertheless been constrained to resist a series of costly attempts to undermine their agreement.” In fact legal fees between them were reportedly nearly £1.8 million! 

If the husband had the level of income he had claimed at the outset and the assets, it would no doubt have strengthened the basis of the terms of the pre-nuptial agreement as he would most surely, if financially independent, not have been manifestly in need. 

The case highlights the fact whilst disclosure is important, for both parties at the outset, proof of what has been disclosed is similarly just as important.