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Prenuptial Agreements Gain Currency

Family law specialist, Belinda Smith of BS Solicitors & Co reflects on recent developments in Prenuptial Agreements in the UK.

A flicker of excitement passed through the UK family law world last month when the long awaited Supreme Court Judgment on the case of Radmacher and Granatino was delivered.

You may be familiar with the story from the national press – glamorous German multi-millionairess seeks to enforce a prenuptial agreement with her separated spouse, brainy Frenchman Monsieur Granatino, not short of a few bob himself, who had decided to return to academia, leaving a lucrative job as a banker.

M. Granatino argued that the prenup, which stated that he would not make any claim on his wife’s riches if they divorced, was not valid because he didn’t realise quite how rich she was when he signed it. The court decided otherwise and the Radmacher won the case.

On the continent and in the USA, nuptial agreements have for many years been treated by the family courts as binding between consenting parties.

Not so in the UK – our jurisdiction has been reluctant to be bound by a document that is drawn up often many years before a marriage breakdown, which could prejudice one of the spouses – usually the wife – in a way neither could predict at the time. Any attempt to hold the parties to arrangements for their children would certainly be over ruled by a future family court, and that is still the situation today.

What has changed since the Radmacher case however, is a greater acknowledgement that “nuptial agreements freely entered into by each party with a full appreciation of its implications”, should be considered binding on what happens with matrimonial assets on divorce “unless in the circumstances prevailing it would not be fair to hold the parties to their agreement”.

So it seems that pre-nups and indeed post-nups, will now be assumed to be binding unless there are very good reasons to find otherwise. This is a big move forward from before where the nuptial agreement could be a weighty factor to be taken into account in divorce but was not assumed to be the last word.

So nuptial agreements are not yet fully binding in UK law, but if a couple each consults a family lawyer and together disclose their financial assets and have the legal implications of a nuptial agreement fully explained to them, they can be confident that the terms of that agreement are more likely than not to be recognised by our family courts from now on.

For more information on nuptial agreements call 01733 267414.

Thursday, January 13th, 2011 Prenuptial Agreements

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