A prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into prior to marriage or civil partnership which generally includes how assets should be divided, spousal and child support if the marriage or civil partnership were to breakdown, although prenuptial agreements can vary greatly. Prenuptial agreements can also include additional provisions including forfeiture of assets if the marriage or civil partnership has broken down on the grounds of adultery. If a similar agreement is made after the marriage or civil partnership has begun it is known as a postnuptial agreement.
Until recently the UK has not recognised prenuptial agreements as being legally valid and therefore were not taken into consideration at the time of the relationship breakdown. However, in 2010 the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Mrs Radmacher who entered into a prenuptial agreement to prevent either party from gaining any interest or benefit from the property of the other during and at the breakdown of the marriage. The Supreme Court stated that they should give effect to a nuptial agreement which was entered into freely by parties, unless to do so would be unfair on the parties.
Rupert Murdoch has recently been in the news as he is currently divorcing his third wife Wendi Deng, who alleged signed a prenuptial agreement prior to their wedding on a yacht, something he did not do before his wedding to Anna Torv. Who instead of taking Mr Murdoch to court for 50% of the family stock of the entertainment empire, asked that a trust was created which would be controlled by her three children. However with Rupert Murdoch’s current net worth of $12.1 billion and his previous divorce, it has been commented by many that it would be unlikely that Wendi Deng did not sign a prenuptial agreement.
So is it worth getting a prenuptial agreement in the UK?
Prenuptial agreements are enforceable and legal in UK courts as long as they were properly entered into; there was no fraud, undue influence or duress, and as long as it would not be unfair to hold the parties to the agreement. The courts however do have complete discretion when they are applying the terms of a prenuptial agreement and will only enforce what they believe to be equitable. It is important that a prenuptial agreement has been drawn up correctly and is tailored to your individual needs as they need to follow the legal rules governing all contracts to give you the best chance of getting the desired result.
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