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WC v HC [2022] EWFC 22

H and W have two children. The family had lived a 'very affluent' life between the UK and Switzerland, supported almost entirely by H's family money. Mr Justice Peel considered the weight to be attached to a pre-marital agreement, a post-marital agreement, family wealth and prospective inheritance in determining the appropriate financial award division of assets.

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The judgment contains an overview of the law relating to division of assets generally (paragraph 21), pre-and post-marital agreements (paragraph 22), inter-vivos gifts from family (paragraph 23), and inheritance (paragraph 24).

The pre-marital agreement was entered into about three weeks before the marriage, at the behest of H's father. Peel J found that although both parties were under pressure from H's father to enter into the agreement, the pressure was not undue, and there was no reason to ignore the agreement.

The post-marital agreement specified that "this Agreement shall come into force on the date upon which the last of [H] and [W] signed the Agreement". W had agreed to its terms in correspondence, but ultimately declined to sign it. Peel J held; 'I am satisfied therefore that it is not a formally arrived at agreement in the Radmacher sense … I decline to find that it binds W unless she can demonstrate it operates unfairly. But nor am I willing simply to discard and ignore it, as W submits.' The agreement was a factor to be taken into account in considering all of the circumstances.

There had been a breakdown in the relationship between H, his sisters, and their father. Peel J was not satisfied that he could take the prospect of support from H's father into account in any meaningful way. H's father could be regarded as a 'safety net' only.

Similarly, in respect of inheritance, although Peel J found that on balance, it was more likely that H would, at some point, receive a significant inheritance:

i) 'Such inheritance would be entirely non-matrimonial, received long after separation;

ii) It has always been understood by the parties, as recorded in the two agreements, that future inheritances should be excluded from claims by the other party;

iii) In terms of foreseeability of resource, it may be several years away, and is unlikely to be of immediate assistance to H. At best, it gives me confidence that H will not want for money in the long term.'

The award gave W 60% of the assets, with H additionally making a high financial commitment to the children.

Case summary by Savannah Bullen-Manson, Barrister, Field Court Chambers

For full case, please see BAILII