Valid Prenups Can Be Upheld on Divorce, Recent Case Confirms
Table Of Contents
Landmark Decision Upholds Validity of Prenuptial Agreements in Recent UK Case Law
In the recent case of MN v AN  EWHC 613 (Fam), Mr Justice Moor delivered a judgment that reinforces the English court’s commitment to upholding valid prenuptial agreements.
This landmark decision highlights the importance of carefully crafted prenuptial agreements, shedding light on the court’s approach when faced with challenges during divorce proceedings.
The case involved a prenuptial agreement entered into by the parties in 2005. The husband (61), with assets amounting to £32.5 million, and the wife (51), with assets totaling £62,000, negotiated the terms extensively.
The agreement stipulated key provisions, including financial arrangements for the wife based on the duration of the marriage, property division, child maintenance, and a 25-year limitation on its validity.
Both parties received professional legal advice from well-known law firms and negotiated the terms freely in advance of getting married.
In this blog, we’ll explore the case of MN v AN  to shed some light on what Judges consider before making a ruling on a prenup in the English and Welsh courts.
It’s clear that the court’s position on prenuptial agreements is that they will be valid and upheld if challenged in divorce if certain conditions are met.
Challenges to the Prenuptial Agreement:
Following the breakdown of their 14-year marriage in 2019, the wife contested the prenuptial agreement on three grounds:
- Timing: The agreement was executed five years before the Supreme Court’s decision in Radmacher v Granatino  UKSC 42, which emphasised the court’s inclination to honour freely entered nuptial agreements.
- Undue Pressure: The wife argued that the husband exerted undue pressure during the agreement’s signing, creating an environment where she felt compelled to comply due to social stigma and the threat of the wedding being called off.
- Unfairness: Citing the judgment in Miller; McFarlane  UKHL 24, the wife contended that the agreement did not meet her needs and was inherently unfair.
Why was the Prenup upheld? Judicial Determination
Mr Justice Moor, in upholding the prenuptial agreement, made noteworthy observations:
- Lack of Undue Influence: No substantial evidence of undue influence or factors vitiating the agreement was found.
- Pre-Radmacher Validity: The prenuptial agreement’s pre-dating of the Radmacher decision did not diminish its validity, as the wife had legal counsel advising her on its binding nature.
- Marriage Ultimatum: The court rejected the argument that the husband’s ultimatum of no marriage without the agreement constituted undue pressure, emphasising the lack of financial remedy opportunities without marriage.
- Legal Representation: Both parties had legal representation from top legal teams during the agreement’s drafting and negotiation.
- Fairness Assessment: Considering Brack v Brack EWCA Civ 2862, the court concluded that the agreement was not unfair and adequately met the wife’s needs.
What does this mean for prenuptial agreements?
This case underscores the courts’ inclination to enforce fair and well-drafted prenuptial agreements, emphasising the significance of obtaining legal advice when entering into such arrangements.
For those considering writing a prenup via a template, this should make you think again.
The decision highlights the two-way responsibility of parties, urging them to recognise the gravity of the agreement and its potential impact on future financial arrangements.
As divorce rates persist, prenuptial agreements continue to be a prudent tool for securing a fair and predictable outcome, steering couples away from protracted and acrimonious legal battles.
Lara Davies, Director at OLS Solicitors said “The recent case of HD v WB (2023) highlights the importance of making sure clients satisfy themselves as to the level of disclosure provided as well as ensuring they fully understand the content of the agreement (which often involves speaking to an experienced solicitor to discuss the terms and answer any questions they may have) before they sign the agreement.
This case demonstrates that later arguments of a lack of legal advice or failing to fully understand the terms or implications has little merit in attempting to set aside these agreements, and the only real basis to depart from the agreed terms is on the basis of need.
Need, however, as we see in this case does not equate to fairness where, in HD v WB, Husband was awarded £1.9mil based on need which, while this may seem significant, only equated to 4% of the value of realisable assets”.
How Divorce-Online Can Help
If you’re discussing the possibility of entering into a pre-nuptial before marriage with your partner, it’s imperative you both seek professional legal advice.
Both parties need to be aware of each other’s financial position and understand what they are signing and the implications of this in the future if the marriage ends.
Our online prenuptial agreement service is a simpler and more cost-effective way of signing a prenup compared to the traditional route.
You’ll receive professional legal advice alongside the drafting of the Prenup to your exact needs.