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Pre-nups and Professional Negligence

in Business Law by Jessica Latimer on

It was recently reported that swimmer Grant Hackett settled his long running Supreme Court dispute with his former lawyers over the prenuptial agreement with his ex-wife. 

Hackett alleged that his ex-wife’s lawyer had failed to give her independent legal advice that impacted on his share of the couple’s wealth after their split.  Poor legal advice over binding financial agreements (commonly referred to as pre-nups) is not limited to celebrities or the wealthy.

We have acted for a number of clients in claims against their former lawyers arising from botched binding financial agreements.

In one example, our client married his long term on-again off-again girlfriend but he insisted that they enter into a binding financial agreement before they did so.  He retained a lawyer to draft a binding financial agreement, the agreement was signed and despite the best of intentions on their wedding day the marriage broke down. 

Our client’s ex-wife subsequently sued him, and succeeded in achieving a larger share of the couple’s wealth than what was agreed in the binding financial agreement.  The problem was that our client’s former lawyer had not accurately listed all of his assets, despite having instructions in relation to those assets.  We resolved the claim with our client’s former lawyer and he was able to recoup some of the additional money paid out to his ex-wife as a result of the former lawyer’s poor drafting.

In another recent example, our client retained us because her former lawyer had drafted a binding financial agreement but had left a relevant clause out of the agreement.  As a result of leaving out the clause, our client had been unable to enforce the binding financial agreement against her ex-husband.  Our client retained new lawyers to fix the problem and to re-negotiate an outcome for her – at great expense.  We brought a claim against the original lawyer on our client’s behalf, and achieved a resolution with the lawyer’s insurer that included payment of the fees paid to resolve the situation.

Binding financial agreements can be complex documents and advice from an expert family lawyer should be sought when preparing an agreement.  If, however, the lawyer does not act on your instructions or fails to adequately protect your interests in the course of preparing the prenuptial agreement you may be entitled to claim any losses that you suffer as a result.

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