THE EFFECT OF ‘FAIRNESS’ ON PRE-NUPTIAL AGREEMENTS
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Until the seminal judgment of Radmacher v Granatino pre-nuptial or pre-marital agreements were given limited weight in English law. Prior to this decision there had been considerable debate about the status in law of all nuptial settlements both pre and post marriage. The key question for Radmacher was whether pre-nuptial settlements should attract equal weight as agreements drawn up during the course of a marriage. In MacLeod v MacLeod the Privy Council finally resolved the issue with regard to post-nuptial settlements holding that agreements drawn up post marriage would carry weight when the court decides a claim for financial relief under s.25 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. The English courts, unlike other jurisdictions, have always been reluctant to uphold agreements, which purport to deprive the court of its jurisdiction in deciding financial provision. There was also an underlying presumption that parties to a marriage did not intend their agreements to form legally binding contracts and finding adequate consideration within such agreements was often difficult unless the agreement is incorporated in a deed. The effect of the Supreme Court’s decision in Radmacher was not to reverse this approach. Pre-nuptial agreements were not made binding on the court but rather the court is invited to give weight to all nuptial agreements subject to certain safeguards. The subsequent decision in Luckwell v Limatagives guidance as to when the court will be prepared to deviate from pre-marital agreements even when the parties have been given independent legal advice and both parties are fully aware of the possible effect of such an agreement.
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