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High Court Sets Prenuptial Agreement Aside

A recent decision by the High Court in Australia has cast doubt over the future of prenuptial agreements in that country, reports

The case involved a couple, given the pseudonyms Mr Kennedy and Ms Thorne, who met online and subsequently married. At the time, Mr Kennedy was 67-years-old and a successful property developer in Australia with a fortune estimated at between $18-24 million. Ms Thorne was 36-years-old and from Eastern Europe. She spoke little English and had limited assets.
Not long after they met, Mr Kennedy told Ms Thorne that if they were to marry, she would have to sign an agreement because he wanted his money to go to his three grown-up children.  She later moved to Australia and they married.
Shortly before the marriage, Mr Kennedy told Ms Thorne she had to sign a prenuptial agreement otherwise he would cancel the wedding. He arranged for her to see a lawyer, who advised her not to sign the agreement as it wouldn’t be in her interests. However, Ms Thorne signed the prenuptial agreement, and also another, similar agreement, shortly after the wedding.
Under the terms of these agreements, she was to receive no more than $50,000 if they divorced after three years of marriage.
They divorced three years later and Ms Thorne applied to court to have the agreements overturned and sought a settlement of $1.24 million.
The court ruled in her favour, finding that she had signed the agreement under “undue influence and duress”.  The decision was successfully appealed, but Ms Thorne was given permission to appeal to the High Court, which has now ruled in her favour.

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