Make Pre-nups “Legally Enforceable” Says Justice Secretary
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has given his backed calls to give pre-nuptial agreements, colloquially known as pre-nups – status in UK law. At present, pre-nups can be taken into account when deciding divorce settlements, but have no legal status and can be deviated from significantly.
Recent calls to this effect came from a report issued by the Law Commission. Grayling has now given his support to this report and said that he would like to implement the suggestions it contains. He has described the idea of giving legal status to pre-nups as “sensible” and said that that “Where couples feel it’s necessary but where there are complex financial circumstances” it makes sense “to make sure that if things do go wrong, there are easy ways of sorting them.”
Speaking to London’s Evening Standard, Grayling added: “There’s nothing worse than a prolonged, expensive divorce case when the only winners are the lawyers.”
Pre-nuptial agreements allow couples to come to an agreement before marrying about how assets will be divided in the event of a divorce. For example, when one partner brings significant personal assets such as family funds into a marriage, pre-nups can be used in an attempt to protect them should the relationship break down. They are popular in many countries, but currently they are less widely used in the UK because they do not carry any genuine legal weight.
Pre-nups have garnered greater public attention following the 2010 case of Katrin Radmacher, a wealthy German heiress who divorced from former husband Nicolas Granatino. Before marrying, they signed an agreement stating that should the relationship fail, neither party would seek money from the other.
Their divorce became a landmark case as this agreement – which carried no set-in-stone status under UK law – was used as the basis to drastically reduce the amount of money awarded to Granatino. The Supreme Court upheld this decision, and in doing so both set a precedent and drew attention to the issue of pre-nups at large.
Under the recommendations of the Law Commission’s report, pre-nups that meet qualifying criteria would be almost entirely set in stone. Judges would no longer be able to deviate from the original agreement, except in cases it could be established that one partner’s needs would not be adequately catered for by the terms of the pre-nup. In the majority of cases, they would be cast-iron, in great contrast to the current system.
Mr Grayling also expressed a wish to reform human rights law. The minister, who is also a Conservative MP for Epsom and Ewell, said that this was another of his priorities and referred to a recent decision that a former mafia boss could not be extradited to Italy on account of unsatisfactory prison conditions in the country.
On the matter, Grayling said: “We need to scrap the Human Rights Act and need a balance between rights and responsibilities. We need to curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights in the UK. I want our Supreme Court to be supreme again.”
This article was written by K J Smith Solicitors, expert family solicitors in Windsor with years of experience in all family law matters from divorce and children law to civil partnership law and pre-nuptial agreements.