St Valentine’s Day is a popular date for marriage proposals and so it may be a good point early in the year to consider the current position in relation to Pre-nuptial agreements.  Following recent reports that pre-nuptial agreements are soon to be given legislative support, comes a case in which the current attitude of the courts towards pre-nuptial agreements has been made clearer.

It involved a wealthy couple who entered into a pre-nuptial agreement just before they married. The marriage proved short-lived, lasting around 15 months. The husband had assets in excess of £13 million and an income of nearly £400,000 per annum net of tax. The wife had a net worth of almost nil. Under the pre-nuptial agreement, the wife was entitled to an income of £8,000 per month plus £3,000 per annum per child.

The pre-nuptial was entered into with the benefit of legal advice on both sides and was signed by the wife, despite the presence on the agreement of a prominent warning that it should not be signed unless the signatory intended to be bound by its terms.

Despite this, in divorce proceedings, the wife sought an order that she should not be bound to the pre-nuptial agreement and claimed that she should receive the full range of 'financial remedies'  available on divorce.

The court rejected her claim, Judge Mostyn stating that 'the law adopts a strict policy of requiring the demonstration of something unfair before it will open the Pandora's Box of litigation where there has been an agreement of this nature'.  This seems a clear indication that the courts will up-hold Pre-nuptial agreements, although of course each case is dealt with on its own particular facts.

Although this case involved a wealthy couple, pre-nuptial agreements are not limited to only those with wealth. Whatever, your balance sheet, a pre-nuptial agreement provides reassurance as to what will happen in the event of a divorce.

Karen Moores

Partner and Head of Family Law, Sydney Mitchell LLP

For further information on this article or any family law matters, please contact Karen Moores on 0121 700 1400 or fill in our online enquiry form.

 

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