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Law firms report a surge in pre-nup agreements

Law firms in England and Wales have reported a rise in the number of couples making pre-nuptial agreements.

Pre-nups – as they are commonly known – are drawn up by couples before they get married. They state how assets should be divided if the marriage doesn’t work out.

A report in the Daily Telegraph suggests that the rise in numbers is a result of a recommendation from the Law Commission that new legislation should be introduced to make pre-nups legally binding without the need for court scrutiny.

The campaign for recognising pre-nups, and post-nups, which are made after a couple have married, has been gathering pace following the case of the German heiress Katrin Radmacher in 2010.

Ms Radmacher is the heiress to a paper company worth hundreds of millions of pounds. Her husband was Nicolas Granatino, a French former investment banker.

They had a pre-nup but Mr Granatino claimed it was unfair because he had been unaware of the extent of his former wife’s wealth. However, the Supreme Court ruled against him and said the pre-nup should stand.

Court President Lord Phillips said: “In future it will be natural to infer that parties who enter into an ante-nuptial agreement to which English law is likely to be applied intend that effect should be given to it.”

He added that it was up to a couple to decide how to divide their assets if they separate. He said that English courts should follow the precedent set by the Supreme Court.

The courts now only overturn a pre-nup if it is deemed unfair.

The Law Commission wants new legislation to formalise the status of the pre-nup. It has recommended a ‘qualifying nuptial agreement’ which would be a similar sort of contract to a pre-nup or a post-nup.

A couple would decide how to divide their assets, before or during their marriage, in the event that they divorced. As long as legal requirements are met they would be binding in the court.

We shall keep clients informed of developments.

Please contact us for more information about the issues raised in this article or any area of matrimonial law.