Ex-wife of property mogul challenges prenup

family law

The former wife of an Australian property developer has challenged the prenuptial agreement which limited her divorce settlement.

Her ex-husband was worth between $18 million (£10.7 million) and $24 million (£14.3 million) before his death in 2014. They met online in 2006 while she still lived in an undisclosed country in the Middle East. She did not know English well at the time but he spoke her language. The next year he flew out to meet her in person, promising he would marry her if they liked each other.

Prior to the couple’s wedding she signed a prenuptial agreement, which are referred to as “binding financial agreements” in Australia. This put a $50,000 (£29,842) cap on what she would be entitled to if they divorced. Although he was a very wealthy man, he told her: “My money is for my children”.

Their marriage broke down after three years and shortly after they separated, the wife sought to have the prenup overturned. She wanted a $1.24 million (£740,000) settlement including spousal maintenance. The case dragged on even after her ex-husband’s death as his estate continued to fight against the woman’s efforts.

At the Federal Circuit Court she claimed she had been forced to sign the prenup as he had said he would cancel the wedding if she did not. The Court ruled that “every bargaining chip and every power was in [her husband]’s hands” and she did not have any negotiating power. The woman’s “powerlessness [arose] not only from her lack of financial equality, but also from her lack of permanent status in Australia at the time” the Judges declared.

The prenup was overturned but this decision was later reversed on appeal. Now the case is heading to the High Court of Australia, where it is expected to be heard in August. The lawyer representing the wife will argue that the pressure put on her to sign the agreement “whether described as duress, undue influence or unconscionable conduct [was] so overwhelming that it [could not] be resisted”. But the estate’s legal representative is expected to claim that she had legal advice before signing and was not concerned about the amount of money she was entitled to in the event that the couple divorced.

Photo by Cordell and Cordell via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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5 comments

Andrew - June 15, 2017 at 8:18pm

So she signed an agreement to protect his perfectly reasonable wish to protect his children’s position – and now wants to renege on it?
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She had the choice not to marry him if she did not like what was proposed.
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This is classic gold-digging and I hope the High Court allows the appeal of the estate and that what he left her is applied to the executors’ costs.

Andy - June 15, 2017 at 10:39pm

So..He had good sense to create a prenup…
Knowing this he protected himself as we all should do with matters of financial and the rest.
She didn’t or was bothered by the pre nup had no legal guidance so the story goes and he is not here to defend himself.

All of a sudden she can’t survive on the prenup lump sum and now states she was bullied into the contract.
This also begs the question, how much exactly did she contribute into the wealth of the couple..
So now she states for the record her comments of bullying now leads to an increased sum to cover her life style and maintenance…
This just shows how draconian the law on such matters are…If you seperate and no children then stand on your own two feet..once divorced you finances are your own..end of.

stitchedup2(Paul) - June 15, 2017 at 11:31pm

What would be the point of a prenup if they were so easily overturned ?

Andrew - June 17, 2017 at 6:42pm

The case is called Thorne -v- Kennedy and this is the page from the website of the High Court of Australia where you can read the parties’ submissions – UKSC please introduce this practice.
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http://www.hcourt.gov.au/cases/case_b14-2017
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and the judgement under appeal
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http://www.familylawexpress.com.au/family-law-decisions/binding-financial-agreement-2/post-nuptial-agreement/thorne-kennedy-2015-fcca-484/
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More power to the executors’ elbow!

Sandra MacDonald - October 30, 2017 at 12:48am

This must be struck down. Its clealry unfair on her, and the whole point of family law is not to leave a women destitute and relaint on the state. If this contract is “in good conscience”, then we may all sorts of scams will be allowed. This guy wanted her to migrate to Ozzie, and put all the risk on other taxpayers. That cant be right. If he had made a conscionable offer – not $ 50k- then they should be free to do what they want. But not this. Its a contrcat for sexual slavery in all but legal form

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