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Husbands Real Need Trumps Pre-Nuptial Agreement

A husband who agreed before his marriage that he would have no claim on his wife’s property, or on gifts made to her by her wealthy parents, has nevertheless been awarded a slice of her fortune after divorce reduced him to ‘living like a tramp’.

The husband accepted that, had he refused to sign the pre-marital agreement, ‘the marriage would not have taken place’. He had received expert legal advice and had signed two other supplementary agreements to like effect, and there was no suggestion that he had acted under duress.

However, the end of the marriage had left the wife with a £6.7 million fortune, as well as a generous allowance from her parents, whereas the husband, who had been totally dependent on her financially, had no home of his own, almost no income and kept his few possessions in bin bags. He also had debts totalling £435,000.

The wife argued that the husband should be held to the terms of the agreements. Her lawyers had asked, “If benevolent parents wish to provide gifts to their child, but not to his or her spouse, how can they ever safely do so in reliance upon agreements of this kind if they do not prevail in this case?”

The Court recognised the strength of that and other arguments and accepted that the agreements should be given great weight. However, after contrasting the wealthy lifestyle enjoyed by the wife with the husband’s ‘real need’ and ‘bleak’ prospects, the Court found that it was nevertheless fair that he should be provided for, not least in the interests of the former couple’s children.

The Court noted, “In the absence of the agreements, it is inconceivable that any court would not make a substantial award to the husband. Further, if all the facts were the same but the genders reversed, it is, in my view, inconceivable that the agreements would outweigh making a substantial award to the wife, even if the children were primarily living with the husband and only intermittently staying with her.”

The wife was, amongst other things, ordered to buy the husband a £900,000 home, although the Court directed that he should have only the use, not the ownership, of the property. She was also ordered to make non-refundable payments to the husband totalling around £300,000. That would leave her with capital of about £4.4 million, although she would also have to cover the children’s private school fees.