He could understand contracts and had ample time to review the agreement
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has refused to invalidate a marriage contract due to a party's failure to read it, finding that he was capable and had ample time to review the agreement.
In Singh v. Khalill, 2023 ONSC 63, Naween Singh asked the court to declare that the marriage contract he executed with his former wife, Rakiun Khalill is invalid and should be set aside. The parties met on an online dating website for Muslims, and six weeks later, they were married.
Shortly after the marriage, Khalill became concerned about Singh's lack of contribution to the household and the expectation that Khalill would cater to and clean up after him. Khalill claimed that she had paid for all their living expenses, including their house's carrying costs and utilities. She also claimed that Singh kept money to himself and did not share his funds.
Khalill eventually raised the idea of a marriage contract due to her frustration with Khalill's conduct and her desire to protect her assets if the relationship broke down. Khalill approached a lawyer, who prepared a draft marriage contract for her.
The parties later agreed to meet at another lawyer's office to sign the marriage contract. When Khalill arrived at the office, Singh had already signed the contract. The lawyer issued a certificate of acknowledgment, confirming that Singh understood the contents of the agreement he was signing and that he was signing freely, voluntarily, and without any compulsion by Khalil.
After signing the contract, the parties continued to live together, but they kept their respective finances and assets separate from one another. A couple of years later, Khalill applied for a divorce, which the court granted. Singh then sought to equalize the parties' net family property and asked the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to set aside the Marriage Contract as invalid.
Singh claimed that when he received the marriage contract, the court pointed out that he declined to read it, notwithstanding his awareness that it could foreclose his potential access to properties or assets.
The court noted that Singh had significant pre-existing experience with various legal proceedings, including extensive experience with family law in BC. The court found that he had several marriages before his marriage to Khalill. The court also found that he could understand contracts and read many contracts during his work.
Singh claimed that he did not read the marriage contract because Khalill had given him the ultimatum to "sign or get out" and because he felt that signing was the way to save the marriage. He also testified that he had substantial assets and income of his own at the time and that, in effect, he was not concerned about the financial consequences of signing the agreement and was more concerned about preserving the marriage.
However, the court found that the marriage contract did not appear to be unfair or the product of unequal bargaining power. On its face, the court found that the contract seemed to be a valid domestic agreement signed by both parties. The court emphasized that it should exercise caution in interfering when parties are settling their affairs.
The court also stressed that Singh failed to undertake due diligence concerning the marriage contract. The court pointed out that Singh was reasonably educated and sophisticated, had worked with multiple contracts throughout his adult life, and had ample time to review the draft. Under these circumstances, he did not read the document before signing it.
The court cited case law stating, "A party cannot fail to ask the correct questions and then rely on a lack of disclosure." The court ultimately ruled that the marriage contract was valid and had no reasonable basis to set it aside.