Senior judges rewrote the divorce laws yesterday to give resounding backing to prenuptial agreements.
The Court of Appeal ruled that the assets of Katrin Radmacher – a paper industry heiress said to be worth £100 million – should be protected from her French ex-husband because of the prenuptial contract they signed before they married.
The judgement should hearten people who have tried to safeguard their assets with written agreements.
Previously Judges had regarded prenuptial agreements as “persuasive” but in the future, courts will regard them as binding unless there is a reason not to.
The judgement yesterday said a main plank of its reasoning was that men and women who have already been through one divorce should have the chance to preserve their separate wealth for the sake of children of their first marriages.
It was stressed that “a carefully fashioned contract should be available as an alternative to the stress, anxieties and expense of a submission to the width of the judicial discretion.”
Lord Justice Wilson said that the “starting point” should be “for both parties to be required to accept the consequences of what they have freely and knowingly agreed”. The legal burden will start falling on the person who wants to extricate themselves from the pre nup rather than, as now, on the person who wants to uphold it. Those who signed pre-nups thinking they were worthless would now be making a seriously flawed move.
Woolley & Co solicitors will be advising it’s better to have one than not.
The ruling could also signal the end of London being seen as the “divorce capital of the world” where people could pursue extravagant claims. English Courts will now respect the agreements made by couples both before and after marriage.
The ruling could still face a challenge in the House of Lords but this seems unlikely.