Support Contracts and Second Marriages

June 2, 2008 Hull & Hull LLP Litigation Tags: , , , 0 Comments

Soulsbury v. Soulsbury is an interesting appeal from a decision of the Central London County Court about a contract dispute involving a divorced couple.

The couple had been married for 20 years, and after the breakdown of their marriage the ex-husband was ordered to make periodic payments to the ex-wife.  The couple remained on friendly terms.  The ex-husband later suggested that rather than continue to pay periodic support that he should leave £100,000 to the ex-wife in his Will.  The ex-wife agreed to this proposal and they put their agreement into effect.

The ex-husband subsequently fell ill and died, marrying another woman on the morning of his death, which revoked his Will.  After his widow refused to pay the legacy from the estate, the ex-wife brought a claim for payment.

The trial judge found in favour of the ex-wife, holding that a binding agreement had been entered into between the couple.  The widow unsuccessfully appealed.  In response to her arguments to the contrary, the appellate Court held that (i) by entering into the agreement the ex-wife had not bartered away her right to future maintenance or ousted the jurisdiction of the matrimonial court; and (ii) the agreement between the couple was governed by ordinary contract principles (not principles relating to an agreement for the compromise of ancillary relief) and therefore the principal that such an agreement does not give rise to a contract enforceable at law did not apply. 

This serves as a good reminder that when contemplating rearranging one’s support arrangements, in even the most amicable of scenarios, a contingency plan should be in place to deal with the event that either of the parties may enter into a subsequent marriage.

Have a good day,

Natalia

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