Financial settlements reached between divorcing couples are binding and only in very rare cases will judges permit them to be subsequently unravelled. The High Court made that point in rejecting arguments that a division of multi-million-pound assets agreed upon almost 20 years ago should be set aside.
Following a marriage that lasted about four years, a settlement was agreed in 2002 between a successful businessman and his wife. The wife exited the marriage with cash and assets worth over £2.2 million. In 2021, the husband applied to have the settlement set aside on the basis that it was infected by fraud.
Dismissing his application, however, the Court was wholly satisfied that the wife had not on any occasion been fraudulent. She had not concealed from him matters that she was legally obliged to disclose. Even had there been such non-disclosure, a reasonable person in the husband’s position would still have signed up to the settlement.
The husband described the settlement as incredibly generous to the wife. The Court, however, noted that a settlement whereby the wife received just under 20 per cent of their combined assets appeared conventional. That proportion was unremarkable for a short marriage during which there had been no notable increase in marital assets. Overall, the husband’s attempt to set aside the settlement and subsequent agreements concerning such matters as child maintenance was totally without merit.