When Could £90 Million Upon Divorce Be Described As “unfair”?

The Court of Appeal is in the process of hearing an appeal from Mrs Versteegh against a judgment delivered by Mr Justice Singer in 2014.

The parties were married in 1993 and their marriage lasted twenty one years before it came to an end in 2014.The parties had, by any standards, a luxurious lifestyle. Mrs Versteegh gave up her career in the music industry and her life and friends in Sweden to come to make a life with Mr Versteegh in England.

The day before the parties’ wedding in Stockholm, Mrs Versteegh signed a prenuptial agreement agreeing not to make any claims against Mr Versteegh’s separate wealth.  Though prenuptial agreements are generally commonplace in Sweden, the agreement was signed without the benefit of legal advice. At the time of the judgment the parties’ wealth amounted to £273 Million, of which Mrs Versteegh was awarded a share totalling roughly £90 Million.

The judgment represented a departure from equality in Mr Versteegh’s favour to take account not only of the effect of the “uncertainties” of Brexit upon his business empire but also the fact that Mrs Versteegh signed a prenuptial agreement.Mrs Versteegh is seeking to establish that “justice and fairness demands” an increase in her award.

Neil Graham, a Partner at Grayfords, comments as follows: “Of crucial significance in this case is not only the fact that both parties signed a prenuptial agreement but also what status should be afforded under English law to an agreement signed in Sweden?  Although the facts of each case are unique, the Courts in England and Wales have consistently shown themselves willing to uphold English prenuptial agreements, in addition to respecting those signed elsewhere, where it can be shown that the parties entered into the agreement freely and willingly, with a clear understanding of the effect of the agreement and where the agreement does not give rise to any manifest unfairness”.

At Grayfords, we frequently advise on prenuptial agreements, including those with an international element, and have a wealth of expertise in advising our clients on the requirements established in case law and proposed in the Law Commission’s draft legislation in order to maximise the likelihood of those agreements being upheld.  If you are thinking of entering into a prenuptial agreement or have been asked to consider signing one please get in touch with us.  Since prenuptial agreements should ideally be entered into at least 21, if not 28, days before the marriage ceremony the sooner we are asked to assist the more we are able to help you.

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