The Law Commission is drawing up a consultation paper outlining new plans for pre-nuptial agreements to become legally binding. The report will contain options for pre and post-marriage contracts that will be recognised by divorce courts.
Currently, such contracts drawn up by couples to set up the division of assets in the event of divorce are not legally binding.
This law review has been brought about by concern over bitter disputes and colossal divorce payouts.
The Law Commissioner in charge of outlining the new plans is Professor Elizabeth Cooke, and is expected to set out guidelines for ‘fair’ agreements.
Many family lawyers feel that pre-nuptial agreements can help settle subsequent divorces can be settled without bitter wrangling over finances and costly court cases.
For contracts to be binding in court, both parties would need to show that they had both had independent legal advice before signing.
Courts have tended to find in favour of wives who have given up careers to have children and be the “home manager”. Successful and wealthy men have felt that they would rather remain single than gamble on a costly divorce and an outcome in their favour, especially as the UK is the favourite forum of choice for those seeking a generour settlement.
Let’s hope that the Law Commission will offer a practical approach to a complex area of law that will provide better protection to those with a significant asset base.
Details of the consultation will not be published before the Supreme Court rules on the case of Katrin Radmacher, the German heiress, and her ex-husband. A decision is expected from the Court before the summer recess and a draft bill and final report will then be presented to Government by the Law Commission.
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