Thousands of well-heeled Cheshire couples in shaky marriages will be re-thinking break-ups after a landmark court case signalled that the courts are taking prenuptial agreements more seriously.
The Family team of SAS Daniels LLP said that it may come as a real eye-opener to many people who feared their marriage was on its last legs, but believed that a prenuptial agreement could be overturned.
“Until the case involving Katrin Radmacher, a German heiress, who managed to overturn an earlier court decision to award her husband £5.8million of her £100million, the fact was that prenuptial agreements were not enforceable in the English Courts.
“However, the Court of Appeal decided it was becoming ‘increasingly unrealistic to disregard prenuptial agreements’, and cut the original award to £1 million.
“The English system is beginning to take more notice of prenuptial agreements, and where one has been entered into fairly – that is to say one party hasn’t been under duress to sign it and the terms are fair to both parties as the marriage has progressed – increasingly judges want to know why the terms of the agreement shouldn’t be followed in the event of divorce where both parties have taken separate legal advice before entering into it,” said head of the Family law team.
“If it’s deemed unfair or there are new circumstances to take into account since it was drawn up – perhaps one party has fallen ill and is unable to work or the couple have had children for example – the Court ultimately retains the jurisdiction to decide how the assets should be divided.
“Prenuptial agreements have long been perceived as a pre-marital contract for the filthy rich and often famous such as footballers or rock stars, but they are relevant to anybody and everybody likely to have assets of dependents.
“There are all kinds of reasons for deciding on a prenuptial agreement – the most common being that one party is well-off or has lots of assets that they wish to protect in the event of divorce.
“But more and more it’s the case that as society changes and people marry increasingly for a second or more times, there are assets accumulated along the way – and children to take into consideration, warranting the drawing up of a prenup.
“Second-time-rounders in their forties or fifties, who by that time may have children from previous relationships, may have accumulated moderate wealth and assets and want to provide fully for those children and protect those assets – in such cases a prenuptial agreement will help.
“So when booking your wedding this summer, book the church, the caterers, the flowers and don’t forget to book the prenup – because it may be starting to have much firmer significance.”