Friday, 3 July 2009

Think carefully before you sign

Shropshire couples should think very carefully before they sign a prenuptial agreement as it will now have a huge impact on the rest of their lives.

Graham Davies, our Senior Partner, said previously prenuptial agreements had been taken into consideration by the courts, but could not be enforced. But now, in a landmark decision senior judges have given their clearest signal yet that courts in England and Wales should take prenuptials as binding documents, bringing them into line with the rest of Europe.

“The law previously said that prenuptial contracts were not enforceable, but the judges said the legislation was patronising and outdated,” said Graham. “So in the case of a wealthy heiress, they ruled that the prenuptial contract she and her husband had signed should be decisive in their divorce case.

“In future, the courts will now regard these contracts as binding, unless there is a reason not to. This means couples should give more consideration to the agreement before they sign it, as it could be a key factor if they ever decide to divorce and need to divide their assets.”

Graham said the judges had decided that ignoring prenuptial contracts seemed to be “increasingly unrealistic” and “reflected the laws and morals of earlier generations”. “By bringing England into line with the rest of Europe, the judges have put a stop to divorcing couples from overseas coming here to finalise their arrangements and avoiding their prenuptial agreements.

“The outdated law meant it was open season for couples who wanted to disregard the contracts they had previously signed – now England is on a level playing field. Any couples considering a prenuptial agreement would be wise to think things through very carefully – the consequences of signing one could have a huge impact on your future.”