The Court of Appeal recently returned a decision on a wife’s appeal of a High Court judgment, providing her with in excess of £50m and business interests, following her 20 year marriage to successful businessman, Gerard Versteegh.
The husband and wife, both in their 50s, were both born, brought up and educated in Sweden. The parties married in Sweden in August 1993 and have three adult children. On 27 August 1993, the day before the wedding, the wife signed a pre-nuptial agreement, by which the parties committed to a separation of property regime. Shortly after their marriage, the parties moved to London and continued to live there during the marriage itself.
Separating in June 2014, before then undertaking financial remedy proceedings, the original court order gave Mrs Versteegh approximately half the non-business assets, together with a 23.41% interest in a business, which had been created and was by Mr Versteegh, under a trust structure. Mrs Versteegh’s settlement was valued at approximately £90m in total at the time the original order was made by the court.
The court had to address extensive arguments about a number of factors, including the impact of a pre-marital agreement on the parties’ settlement. The parties are Swedish and the wife lived her entire life in Sweden prior to the marriage. Pre-nuptial agreements are both commonplace and binding in Sweden. The short document signed by the wife was in absolutely standard form, written in Swedish and which the wife agreed she understood, although claimed not to have ever read. The agreement was subject to Swedish law. Under this standard agreement, the parties elected a regime of separate assets with no delineation as between inherited and other kinds of wealth, all of this in contemplation of their married life being in England not Sweden.
The judge found the pre-nuptial agreement to be effective and that the money the wife had in her own name more than met her needs and that therefore,the enhanced provision offered by the husband substantially exceeded her needs.
Had the judge not been conscious of his statutory duty, he could have simply declined to hear the wife’s case for further provision beyond the terms of the agreement, once he had made his findings as to her appreciation of the implications of the agreement itself. He did not do so, but instead heard the case in full (and complex!) detail before concluding that the proposals of the husband were ‘fair’.
If you would like to discuss issues relating to your separation, divorce or financial affairs following the breakdown of a relationship, contact one of our expert solicitors today on 01234 88977 or 0207 177 9777 for a free consultation. Serving Bedford and London, our lawyers can help you with your family law matters.