Article from the Hexham Courant

The wedding of the year has now taken place and finally “Waity Katie” became a royal bride. It was such a fabulous occasion of National pride and I am sure most of us will wish the young couple well as they embark on married life together.

Whilst the gossip columnists were rife with speculation as to who would design Kate’s beautiful dress, the family lawyers of the UK were instead speculating as to whether the young couple would become pioneers of the pre-nuptial agreement. After all, three out of four of the Queen’s children have divorced. Indeed Patrick Jephson, the late Princess Diana’s private secretary, said “This is no ordinary marriage and the last decade has had these terrible divorces. You’ve got to be practical. If she was my sister, I’d tell her to get a good pre-nup.”

The speculation follows the landmark ruling of the Supreme Court in Radmacher v Granatino in October 2010. The wife in this case was a German heiress, worth an estimated £100 million, and the husband a French former investment banker. The parties entered into a Pre-nuptial Agreement, which in the event of a breakdown of the marriage, made no financial provision for either party. The Supreme Court held that the Pre-nuptial Agreement had decisive weight and it would “be natural to infer that parties entering into agreements will intend that effect be given to them”.

In future, the Courts power to intervene will be limited to circumstances where the provision made in the Pre-nuptial Agreement is either manifestly unfair or there is inadequate provision for dependent children.

In many European countries, it is considered normal and not at all unromantic for newly engaged couples to draw up prenuptial agreements. There have even been reports that continental royals such as Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, who married a former estate agent, have opted to sign them.

But Pre-nuptial Agreements are not only relevant to the rich and famous. They are likely to have growing significance to couples who are marrying for the second time. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics in 2008 estimated that almost 40% of the marriages in the UK were second marriages and divorce rates were especially high for couples the second time around.

At Major Family Law, we have observed a growing trend in the volume of clients who seek our assistance following the breakdown of a second marriage. These clients often entered into their second marriage with significantly greater wealth than their spouse and are understandably concerned about their financial position should they divorce. Second marriages can be more complicated, as there are often children from previous relationships to consider, as well as, pre-owned assets. A Pre-nuptial Agreement (or even a mid-nup agreement) could be the answer as couples can determine, which of their pre-owned assets should remain “untouched” in the event of divorce. Pre-nups can also protect wealth acquired within the marriage, should one party receive a family gift or an inheritance which the other party has not contributed to.
A specialist family law solicitor can advise you of the difficulties such an agreement could also create, the uncertainty as to the effectiveness of a proposed agreement and that the law of course may change in the future.

Finally some advice; “don’t marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can’t live without”.