There is no point taking legal advice if you are not prepared to follow it. In a striking case on point, a wife was alleged to have agreed to a formal settlement of her big-money divorce, directly contrary to the advice of her own legal team.
Following the breakdown of their relationship, the wife claimed that her husband was worth about £500 million, a figure which he disputed. She received clear advice from her lawyers that she should not enter into any serious discussions with the husband until she had formally filed a divorce petition. She was also warned not to sign any documents until they had been submitted for review by her legal team.
Despite that advice, she subsequently signed a consent order by which, on the face of it, she agreed to accept various assets in full and final settlement of any financial claims she might have against the husband. He claimed that those assets were together worth £43 million, rather more than the wife would have been entitled to under a post-nuptial agreement.
The wife disputed that valuation and later applied to have the consent order set aside on the basis that the husband had pressured her into signing it. He was also alleged to have under-disclosed the true extent of his wealth. Those issues had yet to be tried but, at a preliminary hearing, the wife sought interim orders requiring the husband to pay her maintenance and preventing the sale of the former matrimonial home unless the proceeds were paid into a neutral account.
In refusing to grant the interim relief sought, the court emphasised that it was not expressing a concluded view as to the merits of the wife’s case. There was some evidence in support of her claim that the husband had placed her under a degree of pressure. It had, however, been a matter for her whether she followed the clear legal advice she had received. On the current state of the evidence, the court was not satisfied that her application to set aside the consent order was likely to succeed.