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More couples drawing up pre-nup agreements

An increasing number of couples are drawing up pre-nuptial agreements, according to a survey of solicitors specialising in family law.

It follows a ruling by the Supreme Court in the high profile case of the heiress Katrina Radmacher and her former husband Nicolas Granatino. Until that time, pre-nup agreements were not legally binding although courts would take them into account.

The position changed last year when the Supreme Court upheld the pre-nup agreement in the Radmacher case and went on to say that such agreements should generally be accepted by the courts unless there were strong reasons against doing so.

Lord Phillips, president of the Supreme Court, said: "The court should give effect to such an agreement if it is freely entered into by each party with a full appreciation of its implications, unless in the circumstances prevailing, it would not be fair to hold the parties to their agreement."

He stressed that judges would still have the discretion to ignore pre-nups if they were unfair, especially to children, but said that following the ruling it will be natural to infer that parties entering into agreements will "intend that effect be given to them".

"What is important is that each party should have all the information that is material to his or her decision, and that each party should intend that the agreement should govern the financial consequences of the marriage coming to an end."

Lord Phillips added: "The circumstances of the parties at the time of the agreement will be relevant. Those will include such matters as their age and maturity, whether either or both had been married or been in long-term relationships before. What may not be easily foreseeable for less mature couples may well be in contemplation of more mature couples."

The ruling means that if both parties freely enter into a pre-nup that is fair, and both disclose all the relevant financial information in advance, then that agreement will be upheld by the courts.

The accountancy firm Grant Thornton recently carried out a survey which found that 58% of family lawyers had seen an increase in the number of couples drawing up pre-nup agreements following the ruling.

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