Backstrom v Wennberg [2023] EWFC 7928 April 2023

Published: 29/06/2023 09:43

Mr L. Samuels KC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge.

The court heard cross applications for financial remedies orders. W issued a notice that H show cause why he should not be held to their pre- and post-marital agreements.

H failed to attend the final hearing after a late adjournment application was refused. The judge decided to hear the case in H’s absence, balancing both W and H’s rights with the overriding objective, and considering H’s sparse lack of engagement in the proceedings as a whole.

The parties met in Stockholm but were both habitually resident in England. They started to cohabit in early 2014, married in July 2015, and separated in June 2021, making this a short marriage of 6 years (7 including cohabitation). They had one child together, aged 5.

The parties signed four agreements in total, two of which were signed in Sweden. For the purpose of these proceedings, the judge focused solely on the English pre- and post-marital agreements, as they superseded those signed in Sweden. These were both broadly in the same terms, with financial disclosure and legal advice on both sides. At the time of marriage, W had net assets of c. £50m, alongside inheritance prospects of several million. H had net assets of c. £225k, and a £35k salary. Although H had made no disclosure in the proceedings, on W’s case the financial landscape had increased significantly since signing the agreement, with her total assets amounting to c. £250m, and H’s at c. £2.5m. The English agreements provided for all property to be kept separate, principles of both sharing and compensation to be disapplied, and H’s reasonable housing need to be provided for by W until their son reached the age of 18.

Held: The agreements must carry their full weight as there had been no vitiating factors, nor any significant change in circumstances. W was to provide a housing budget of £6.5m to H, which included an ongoing obligation to maintain the home. This would revert back to W upon their son reaching 18 years old. In terms of H’s income claims, the judge found that H should be able to attain financial independence within 6 years, resulting in a capitalised lump sum of £350k being paid to H. Finally, taking into account the standard of living the parties had enjoyed, the judge provided for child maintenance to be paid to H at the rate of £120k per annum.

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