PRE-NUPS: ARE THEY WORTH THE PAPER THEY ARE WRITTEN ON?
When Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas married in 2000 it was rumoured that they entered into a pre-nuptial agreement, a contract that sets out what is to happen to the parties’ assets following the breakdown of the marriage.
There was speculation that the agreement awarded the Welsh film star £1,000,000.00 for every year of marriage with additional payments for any children that they had. Now that they are “taking time apart to evaluate and work on their marriage” the question on many people’s lips is; where does the law stand in relation to this?
Although they may be used widely in the US strictly speaking pre-nuptial agreements are not binding in the UK. The law was clarified however in the recent case of Radmacher v Grantino, the courts confirmed that they were increasingly willing to consider the existence of a pre-nuptial agreement as one of the circumstances of the case. As long as the agreement the parties reached does not contravene any principles of family law then the agreement could potentially be upheld.
The devil is always in the detail and with correct planning a pre-nuptial agreement can be a reassuring document that could put your mind at ease if sadly the marriage came to an end. Recent changes in the law suggest that as long as each person entering into the agreement had independent legal advice and were not forced into signing the document then it could be upheld. Each party would need to give full and frank disclosure of their assets and also complete all the documents in sufficient time before the wedding, eg not the day before. If those circumstances are satisfied the agreement may well be upheld.