High court judge Mr Justice Holman has set aside a prenuptial agreement in a high profile divorce case.
In financial proceedings following the divorce of Victoria Luckwell and Francesco ‘Frankie’ Limata, the judge ordered Mrs Luckwell to finance the purchase of a house by her former husband. The award includes the purchase price, associated legal costs such as stamp duty, and additional funds and living expenses, totalling approximately £1.2 million.
Mrs Luckwell’s father, Mike Luckwell, is a highly successful media entrepreneur.
The judge declared:
“Frankie’s most pressing need is for an adequate home where, during their education, including likely university education, the children can regularly stay with him.”
The former couple, who have three children, signed a prenuptial agreement shortly before their wedding in 2005. This stated that:
“Victoria and Francesco each specifically acknowledges and agrees that the marriage would not be taking place without this Agreement having been negotiated and signed by each of them”.
Mr Justice Holman declared:
“The husband agreed that he would not make any claim either during or after the marriage in relation to the wife’s separate property or to gifts made or to be made to her by her “wealthy family”. That agreement was effectively repeated and reinforced by two “Supplemental agreements” made during the course of the marriage on the occasions of the wife’s parents or father making substantial further gifts to her. If the pre-marital agreement had not been made, the marriage would not have taken place. If the supplemental agreements had not been made, the parents/father would not have made the further gifts to the wife.”
“There is no doubt that by making his present claim the husband is acting in breach of what he had earlier agreed to, upon which not only the wife but each of her parents had relied.”
The judge found that the husband had intended to be bound by the agreements at the time he signed them but had not anticipated that the couple would separate.
He cited the prominent 2010 case of Radmacher v Granatino, which had also involved a wealthy wife and a prenuptial agreement. In its judgement, the Supreme Court had stated:
“The court should give effect to a nuptial agreement that is freely entered into by each party with a full appreciation of its implications unless in the circumstances prevailing it would not be fair to hold the parties to their agreement.”
Mr Justice Holman said:
“It is unlikely to be fair that one party is left in a predicament of real need while the other has ‘a sufficiency or more’ “.
“If all the facts were the same but the genders reversed, it is inconceivable that the agreements would outweigh making a substantial award to the wife, even if the children were primarily living with the husband and only intermittently staying with her.”
The judge described the case in forthright terms:
“…an exceptionally bitter hearing which was very painful to behold. The two sides are now very entrenched indeed. Many hurtful things have been said. Caught in the cross fire are three adored, innocent but vulnerable children. Further, the financial remedy proceedings have already cost some £550,000 and rising, and other aspects of the overall litigation have cost a further £107,000 with more to come.”