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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Pre-nups. Don’t leave home without one

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Many individuals who have to concede possessions or property to a partner when they split up do so grudgingly. No matter how good spirited most people are, anxious to do the right thing and ensure their former partner and children are provided for, I suspect there is almost always a little clenching of teeth to some degree or other. It might be a share in a house, or car, or part of a pension pot.

So spare a thought for Dmitry Rybolovlev. The 43-year-old Russian oligarch is reportedly facing a divorce payout of up to £3.8 billion.

Yes. Billion.

The mining magnate is Russia’s 10th richest man and said to be worth an estimated £5.6 billion – but his estranged wife Elena believes that is only the tip of the iceberg and he has much more wealth in offshore accounts that she is keen to uncover so she can get her fair share.

This maybe a naïve view but when you have more than one billion, is it really that important to do everything to get few pennies more? Neither party has to worry about paying the milkman next week.
If her claim is successful, it would be the most expensive divorce in history, outstripping Rupert Murdoch’s £1.1 billion divorce from Anna, his wife of 32 years.

The couple have been married for 23 years and Elena is the mother of their two daughters so she is likely to be entitled to a fair share of the couple’s assets – assuming of course this was being looked at by the English courts. Dmitry is accused of serial infidelity.

However, what this case perhaps highlights, yet again, is the importance of pre-nuptial agreements. For high-worth couples or individuals getting married, a pre-nup is a simple, cost-effective way of setting down guidelines on how assets will be split up if the couple split up. It is a way of one party protecting some of their assets while also giving a clear indication of intent on how the finances will be tackled on divorce.

In this case, the allegedly wayward husband claims that his soon-to-be ex wife signed an agreement in 2005 that limited any divorce settlement to just over £60 million – something she contests. Whoever is telling the truth, it is not clear cut. A pre-nup, properly drawn up with both sides taking expert legal advice can be a compelling tool.

To not have one when so much money is at stake seems obscene. For those of us without a billion or so squirreled away, that does not mean that a pre-nup is not necessary. The reasoning behind having one in place remains sound: they can help save money if a relationship does go sour by potentially cutting the time you need for wrangling over possessions and helping to head off a court hearing when the costs can spiral.


Andrew Woolley
Divorce solicitor

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