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Pre-nups like Nigella's can take the pain out of divorce settlements

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High-speed divorce is back on the discussion boards following the breakdown of the marriage between art collector Charles Saatchi and celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, with the news that their divorce is expected within the month.

Whilst the pre-nup between Saatchi and Lawson looks set to shape the swift progress of their divorce through the courts, with neither making any claim on the other, it’s not just celebrities or the super-rich who can benefit from such agreements.

According to legal experts, the lesson is one that’s useful for everyone, particularly on remarriage or where anyone has a significant inheritance.  

Until recently, pre-nuptial agreements setting out how property was to be divided in the event of a couple divorcing were regarded as void under English law because they were considered to be contrary to public policy.  But since the Supreme Court ruling in the 2010 landmark case of Radmacher v Granatino the Courts have looked more favourably on pre nuptial agreements if “certain conditions are fulfilled.

Since the Radmacher and Ganatino case, the Courts are more likely to uphold pre-nuptial agreements if it appears fair and if both parties disclose all aspects of their financial situation at the time the agreement is entered into.  It also needs to be clear that no pressure is exerted by one on the other to sign the agreement.  

By setting out what each thought was reasonable at the time they got married, pre nuptial agreements can help couples avoid having to negotiate a settlement in difficult circumstances after the relationship breakdown.
“At the very least the Courts are more likely to follow a pre-nup as a guide to what type of financial settlement to make, but it’s not possible to use the agreement to prevent the other party from seeking a different financial settlement through the Courts,” explained family law expert Neil McNab of Chelmsford based solicitors Gepp & Sons. 

He added:  “A pre-nuptial agreement may not always be appropriate for young couples without children because it is hard to tell what the future holds for them, but for a more mature couple, perhaps entering into a second marriage and with adult or nearly-adult children, the case for pre-nups is compelling.  Where couples bring assets and children into the new marriage, these agreements prove a useful way of protecting such assets and making sure there’s financial security for those children from previous relationships.  
“It may seem difficult to discuss such matters in the flush of love and the prospect of a shared future, but it’s a very good way of setting out on the right foot for couples, with everyone sure of how they stand, and clear on how the other feels. ” 

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

If you would like further information on pre-nuptial agreements please contact our family department on 01245 228106 or email