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03 February 2016

What does it take to have a binding financial agreement – lessons to be learnt from Grant Hackett’s experience

In recent years, there have been a number of high-profile cases in which financial agreements have been set aside for failing to comply with the technical requirements of the Family Law Act.

In recent years, there have been a number of high-profile cases in which financial agreements have been set aside for failing to comply with the technical requirements of the Family Law Act. One case which has received recent media attention is that of former Olympic swimming champion Grant Hackett, who is pursuing legal action against two law firms after the Family Court set aside his financial agreement he signed, prior to getting married.

What is a financial agreement?

A financial agreement, also referred to as a pre-nuptial agreement, sets out the way some or all of a couple’s assets will be divided in the event their relationship breaks down. It can also deal with any spousal maintenance which might be paid during or after the relationship.

In accordance with the Family Law Act, parties may enter into an agreement before, during or after a marriage or de facto relationship.

In a number of cases, the Family Court has made it clear that strict compliance with the technical requirements of the Family Law Act is necessary to avoid a financial agreement being set aside. The reason for this is an agreement effectively ousts the Court’s jurisdiction to make an order for property adjustment orders, the Court therefore insists on full compliance with the substantive and technical requirements of the Act.

What happened in Hackett’s case?

Hackett married pop-star Candice Alley in April 2007 and the pair separated in May 2012.

After their separation, reports in the media indicated Hackett and Alley had signed a ‘faulty’ financial agreement one month before their wedding. While the news reports are silent on the exact nature of the defect, it was reported the agreement did not comply with legislative requirements. Alley succeeded in having the agreement set aside.

As a result, Hackett has apparently instigated a claim against his lawyers in which he alleges the lawyers neglected or failed to perform their services with due care as they did not ensure the agreement was ’effective, operative and enforceable’.

What does it mean for you?

Financial agreements must be approached carefully to reduce the risk of the agreement being set aside by the Family Law Court. It is imperative for parties who wish to enter into an agreement to obtain advice from a lawyer well-versed in the requirements of the Family Law Act, as well as strategic negotiation and who demonstrates respect for the personalities and the relationship involved.

Cooper Grace Ward’s family lawyers have extensive experience in preparing and providing advice in relation to financial agreements.

If you are considering entering into an agreement with a current or potential partner or spouse and wish to discuss your particular circumstances, please contact a member of our team.

Our team of dedicated family lawyers, led by partner Justine Woods (an accredited specialist in Family Law) has experience in a wide range of family law issues.

We have both female and male specialists at our offices in Brisbane. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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This publication is for information only and is not legal advice. You should obtain advice that is specific to your circumstances and not rely on this publication as legal advice. If there are any issues you would like us to advise you on arising from this publication, please let us know.

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