Challenge to pre-nup signed 1 year before divorce fails

By Lenore Rice

A wife who signed a pre-nuptial agreement with her wealthy husband just 15 months before their divorce has failed in her attempts to have it disregarded in order that she can pursue a larger divorce settlement.

The status of pre-nuptial agreements in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK still has some grey areas, though recent case law has given them higher respect in family law courts, and it is speculated that a Law Commission report due on 27th February will recommend that pre-nuptial agreements be enshrined in law.

In the the case known as BN v MA, the husband and wife had entered into a pre-nuptial agreement 15 months before they divorced. The wife tried to claim that her husband was guilty of material non-disclosure in respect of his assets, and that the circumstances of her signature of the pre-nuptial agreement meant that it should be considered by the court to be unfair. Mostyn J rejected both the wife's claims, saying he could see no evidence of either.

The husband has net property assets of £13.08million as well as a share in the family business, with a net income from the business per annum of £350,000, as well as other income from property rentals. The wife has two flats in London worth a quarter of a million pounds each but both are fully mortgaged.

In delivering his judgment, Mostyn J commented that case law has provided that "the court should give effect to a nuptial agreement that 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." In this case he saw no reason to throw out the pre-nuptial agreement and the wife as such will not have the normal range of financial remedies that are available in a divorce.

If you are considering a separation and require legal advice from a divorce solicitor in Belfast contact Wilson Nesbitt by calling 0800 840 1363.