Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Pre-nups, pole dancers and PI insurance

View Blog Pre-nups, pole dancers and PI insurance by Matthew Burgess

The saga involving swimmer Grant Hackett suing two law firms for negligence is a high profile reminder of the difficulties in relation to 'pre-nups'.

Broadly the Hackett matter centred on allegations that the relevant law firms failed to properly advise him to create a binding financial agreement.

In particular, Hackett argued that the original agreement entered into before marriage failed to comply with the strict legal requirements under the Family Law Act. When the agreement was later updated after the birth of the couple's twin children the alleged difficulties with the agreement were not remedied.

In many respects the issues here are analogous to the relatively well known 'pole dancer' case of Wallace v Stelzer [2014] HCATrans 135 - so named because the husband met the wife at what was described as 'an adult entertainment venue' where the wife was working as a dancer. As usual, if you would like copies of the relevant decisions please email me.

At the heart of the pole dancer case was the husband's desire to avoid the terms of the binding financial agreement that saw him liable to pay $3million dollars to his former wife when their marriage ended after only 18 months.

Some of the arguments raised included that the lawyers failed to discharge their duty to properly explain the terms of the agreement - an allegation that would have seen the lawyers potentially liable in negligence if it had been held to be correct.

It was also argued that the agreement was void in relation to some technical aspects required to be complied with under the Family Law Act and that attempted legislative fixes to the rules were also invalid, in part because the changes purported to be retrospective. While it was ultimately held that the agreement was effective and the legislative changes were valid the extent of the litigation has seen many law firms, even those that specialise solely in family law, choose to no longer prepare binding financial agreements.

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