Estranged wife demands half of £11m family fortune after husband made her sign prenup papers on romantic getaway
Decorated Swedish driver, Kenny Bräck, became a household name after winning three separate Championship titles during the 90s. Bräck also survived one of the most violent crashes in sport’s history when his car touched wheels with Tomas Scheckter’s in the closing stages of the Texas Motor Speedway in 2003, before returning eighteen months later to set the fastest qualifying time of the field at the Indy 500.
Kenny began living with his then-girlfriend, Anita, in 1994. The couple married in 2000 and raised two children in their £3 million property in Berkshire. Mrs Brack filed for divorce in February 2015 in the UK and the couple separate a month later. Unfortunately for Mrs. Bräck, a prenuptial agreement signed on a romantic weekend away, as well as two other separate, similar agreements, left her with a small fraction of the couple’s wealth, with Mr. Bräck taking the lion’s share – over £10 million.
Anita Bräck is now appealing the court’s decision to uphold the prenup and is arguing that half the fortune should be shared.
During the initial court proceedings, Mr. Justice Francis of the Family Court argued that, while he saw Mr. Bräck as ‘financially mean’, he could not award Mrs. Bräck half of the family wealth, on the grounds that she had fully understood the consequences of the prenuptial agreement upon signing them.
The Judge stated, ‘I do not believe it to be fair, after a marriage of this length and with these contributions and these children, for the wife to be left with almost nothing and for the husband to be left with almost everything.’
However, he also pointed to an entry in Mrs. Bräck’s diary during the couple’s romantic break which stated ‘Vacation. Cosied up in the morning. Went to 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.’ The judge concluded ‘these did not appear to be the musings of a person who was shocked by the request that she sign a prenuptial agreement after so many years together’.
After the couple’s £3 million home was sold, and Mrs. Bräck cleared her debts, she was left with £560,000, while her husband was left with over £10 million. Mr. Bräck was also ordered to pay a £95,000 a year child maintenance payment, a carer’s allowance to Mrs. Bräck for raising the children, and a £2 million capital settlement to be used for housing, to be repaid to him when the children grow up.
Anita Bräck’s Appeal
Anita Bräck has now asked the Court of Appeal to overturn the decision made by Mr. Justice Francis two years ago.
Mrs. Bräck’s representative, Patrick Chamberlayne QC, claims the introduction of new email evidence will show that the judge made an error in his initial ruling. Mr. Chamberlayne stated ‘the emails make clear that the wife was telling the truth at trial when she said that, at the time she signed the agreements, the husband had told her that they would not govern the actual financial provision he would make for her’. Meanwhile, Mr. Bräck’s representative, Martin Pointer QC, argues that Mr. Justice Francis’ decision was the correct one.
Prenuptial agreements in England and Wales are not legally binding but can be extremely influential as long as certain standards are met. To have any value though, certain safeguards must be met such as both parties having independent legal advice, keeping the agreement up to date to avoid any manifest unfairness that may result from changes in circumstances (e.g. the birth of children or the loss of employment) and forming the agreement 21 days prior to the marriage ceremony taking place. In the event the 21 day provision cannot be met, a couple may find they are better waiting until they’re back from honeymoon and forming a postnuptial agreement – much the same as a prenuptial one except it is formed post-marriage.
This case highlights the potential consequences of entering into a prenuptial agreement as well as the importance of seeking independent legal advice before making such an important decision. If you would like more information on entering into a prenuptial agreement, contact us to speak to on our experienced solicitors. Our prenuptial agreement specialists tailor the agreement to fit the unique aspects of your relationship, putting your mind at ease knowing that everything is taken care of should the worst happen.