A husband who pressured his bride into signing a Binding Financial Agreement (also known colloquially as a pre-nuptial agreement) has had the Agreement set aside by the Family Court on the basis that his behaviour was “unconscionable”.
The husband (known as Mr Parkes in the anonymised judgment) raised the question of a Binding Financial Agreement with the bride-to-be three days before the wedding, by handing her the agreement already signed by him and telling her that if she didn’t sign, the wedding was off.
The future bride felt “she had no choice”, as her parents had put $40,000 towards the wedding and all her friends and family had been invited to the wedding. She signed it the next day.
The Judge in this case referred to a previous High Court matter (Louth v Diprose) in which an unrequited lover had bought the object of his affection a house, which she refused to transfer back to him after ending their friendship. In cases of that kind, the Court may find that one party was at a “special disadvantage” which the other party took advantage of, with a resulting gain to that party.
The Judge found it was unconscionable of the husband to put his wife in the position he did. She was at a “special disadvantage” because of the pressure of the impending wedding, and the likelihood that if the wedding was cancelled, their relationship would be over too.
He took advantage of that by having her sign an agreement which gave her no right to any of the husband’s property either then or in the future. The Judge found,
“The only inference from his late production of a completed and signed agreement is that he wanted to give the wife no choice and he knew that if it was presented to her days away from the wedding she would have no choice. I infer that the husband considered there was no risk that the wife would refuse to sign the binding financial agreement and cancel the wedding.”
In those circumstances, the agreement was set aside, leaving the wife free to pursue a claim for property settlement against the husband
O'Sullivan Davies can assist in regard to drafting Binding Financial Agreements as well as advising in regard to the terms and implications of such agreements.
Each party to the agreement must obtain legal advice before signing the agreement and furthermore the solicitor must provide a certificate in regard to his or her advice.
O'Sullivan Davies can assist in regard to the technicalities of these agreements as well as the kind of issues that arose for Mr Parkes and his bride.