Landmark Decision – Pre-nuptial Agreements – New L
Prenuptial contracts are agreements couples enter into before marriage in an attempt to agree how assets should be divided in the event of their divorce. Strictly speaking such contracts are not absolutely enforceable in English Law
However, in a landmark decision yesterday (02.07.09) the Court of Appeal rewrote the divorce laws to give resounding backing to prenuptial contracts. Lord Justice Thorpe said that any rule that prenuptial contracts are void seemed to be ‘increasingly unrealistic’
This decision effectively reverses the law to date which dictates that on a divorce, the court has ultimate jurisdiction to divide the assets of the marriage as it sees fit according to what is reasonable in the circumstances of each individual case. This meant that a court could ignore a prenuptial contract entered into by the couple before the marriage in which they agreed ‘who should have what’ in the event of their divorce. There has been no guarantee to date therefore that a court would enforce the terms of a prenuptial agreement. Prenuptial agreements that have been successfully enforced to date have usually been in cases where the marriage survives for only a short period of time and where there are no children. This latest case however suggests that couples may now stand a better chance of agreeing how their assets should be divided in the event of divorce to create greater certainty for both parties.
Only time will tell whether the decision will be overturned by the House of Lords or whether the courts will, in the future, seek to limit the circumstances in which such agreements are binding but clearly there appears to have been something of a sea change in the attitude of the courts in this area.
For more information contact Anita Toal of our Family Team