The majority decision in the Supreme Court has recently upheld the Court of Appeal decision that the pre-nuptial agreement in the case of Radmacher v Radmacher should be binding upon the husband.
Facts of the case
The parties were married in London in 1998, the husband being French and the wife being German. The parties entered into a pre-nuptial agreement in Germany providing for neither party to acquire any benefit from the property of the other during the marriage or upon its cessation. The wife had considerable family wealth. The parties had two children and separated after 8 years.
The husband, a banker, chose not to take independent legal advice upon the pre-nuptial agreement.
When the marriage broke down, the husband was a student and applied for ancillary relief. He was awarded a substantial sum of £4.5 million. The case then went to the Court of Appeal who held that the pre-nuptial agreement should have been given decisive weight and there was no factors which rendered the agreement unfair so as not to hold the husband to the agreement.
What the Court found
The Supreme Court decided that the Court of Appeal was correct in its conclusions and noted that the husband was extremely capable. The Supreme Court held generally that if a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement were to carry full weight, both parties had to have entered it of their own free will without undue influence or pressure with the knowledge of the agreement’s implications. The Court found that if the parties understood the implications of the agreement and intended the agreement to be binding, it would be proper to uphold it unless circumstances surrounding the agreement involved duress, fraud or misrepresentation.
The Court said that it would be proper to look at the circumstances surrounding the agreement to look at, for example, whether the marriage would have gone ahead without an agreement and whether one party acted badly in exerting pressure on the other party.
The Court held that generally, however, in the event that the agreement had been entered into freely and with understanding, it would be upheld unless it would be unfair to hold the parties to it, such as where an agreement would prejudice the reasonable requirements of any children. The Court also said that where the agreement attempted to deal with a change of circumstances in the future, the longer the marriage lasted, the more likely it would be that it would be unfair to hold the parties to it.
The Court also indicated that if to uphold the agreement would result in one of the parties being handsomely provided for with the other being left in real need, it was again unlikely to uphold the agreement.
Should you wish to talk to one of our solicitors about an pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement, please contact us on 01992 892214. We are very close to Epping and Harlow and are easily accessible to all surrounding areas but can easily arrange a consultation by telephone or video conferencing if this suits you better.