A very recent decision in a case which went all the way to the High Court has reinforced the need to act fairly at all times when entering into a Financial Agreement under the Family Law Act.
In the particular case in question, a couple met online when the wife lived overseas. She subsequently moved to Australia and began living with the husband. They planned to marry but shortly before the marriage he insisted that she sign a Financial Agreement otherwise the wedding would not go ahead. She signed the Agreement only four days before the wedding despite being advised by an independent solicitor that she should not sign it. Shortly after marriage she signed another Agreement in substantially the same terms as the first.
The couple separated after four years and the wife sought to have the Agreements set aside claiming that she had been subjected to undue influence and that the husband had engaged in unconscionable conduct. When the matter came before the High Court it held unanimously that both Financial Agreements should be set aside because of the circumstances which surrounded the wife signing the Agreements.
While Financial Agreements are, in many cases, entirely appropriate and sensible, this case is a timely reminder that it is always important to make sure that the circumstances which give rise to the Agreement are open, above board and fair. Anyone considering such Agreements should ensure they get advice from a solicitor with appropriate knowledge and experience to ensure they avoid the sort of problems which emerged in this case.