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Breaking-up before the Big Day

HMB

Last time we discussed how children fare during a split or divorce.

This time we’re discussing Pre-nuptial agreements:

Planning how to break-up before you get married?  The validity of a pre-nuptial agreement has been examined again in court[1] recently.

Legal advice is to agree your break-up financial plan well ahead of the Big Day and make sure it is fair, and it stays fair. Use independent legal advice, and review the agreement, especially at times of change.

The wealthy great-granddaughter of the founder of Avon Products, Morgan McConnell, married Anil Ipekci who worked as a hotel concierge. They were in very different financial situations, so it is not surprising they decided on a pre-nuptial agreement to specify what would happen if they split up.

However, their pre-nuptial agreement was fundamentally flawed, and recently the court refused to follow it. The agreement has to be fair, and the couple has to sign it by choice. This couple married only 15 days after signing it, so it was very close to the wedding. The closer to the date of the wedding, the more likely one party might have been pressured into agreeing it.

Morgan and Anil’s lives had changed since the marriage, and they had had two children. The agreement, however, had never changed since it was signed.  Pre-nuptial agreements need to be kept relevant, and up to date. They should be reviewed from time to time, especially after having children, as what might have been fair at the start of the marriage can be very harsh once children come along.

Anil, financially far weaker than his wife-to-be, had his legal advice from a lawyer who had acted for Morgan in her first divorce. The judge felt that this suggested some bias in the advice given: that the lawyer was compromised by having already acted for Morgan in her earlier break-up. The advice, therefore, might not have been independent.

Was the agreement fair by the time they were separating?  It would have given the husband nothing. The judge felt it would have been totally unfair to hold Anil to it. It was also seen to be in the children’s interests for their father to have a reasonable home, not to be seen by them as ‘the poor relation’.

Therefore, the court did not uphold it. Anil was awarded financial support, based on his needs. It was not based on sharing the wealth of his wife. Arguably, the pre-nuptial agreement, whilst not being followed, probably did limit his award. He was given a significant lump sum, enough to provide him with some income and enable him to buy a home, with a charge on the home giving some of it back to Morgan McConnell in the future.  The legal moral of the story is to keep pre-nuptial agreements reviewed and relevant and make sure they are fair, well ahead of the marriage.

If you would like to ask any questions on this or the other topics I have covered, many of which are on our website www.hmbsolicitors.co.uk please email me on [email protected]

[1] Ipekci v McConnell 2019

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Sarah Beskine
About Sarah Beskine (44 Articles)
I offer help and advice as a specialist in the field of family law whether you are seeking help with divorce, separation or conflicts regarding children’s disputes.