Wife held to the terms of a post-nuptial agreement in £2million divorce case
The High Court recently decided on another case about the enforceability of a nuptial agreement. This is an area of law which has been rich in development over the past few years.
In Hopkins v Hopkins, the Court was dealing with a post-nuptial agreement.
This is an agreement drawn up after marriage defining the level of financial provision in the event of a divorce or separation between the parties.
The enforceability of nuptial agreements
It’s always been the case that an ‘agreement’ reached between parties is not in itself enforceable. But it can be persuasive for evidencing the parties’ intentions at the time the agreement was made.
In other words, a nuptial agreement, whether entered into pre or post marriage, can’t be said to be 100% legally binding.
However, the development in this area of law over the last few years has seen the Courts being readier than ever to uphold these agreements. Providing, of course, that certain criteria are met.
Hopkins v Hopkins
In this case, the Court upheld the post-nuptial agreement reached between the parties. This was subject to an extra payment offered by Mr Hopkins over and above the terms of the agreement.
The Court reiterated the key principles that apply to these cases for an agreement to be, more likely than not, upheld by the Court.
The key principles are:
a. The parties must enter into the agreement of their own free will and informed of its implications.
b. The parties must enter into the agreement without undue influence, pressure, duress, fraud or misrepresentation.
c. Legal advice and disclosure are desirable although, more importantly, the parties should both be aware of the implications of the agreement and have the information that is relevant to his or her decision.
d. The parties should intend that the agreement should be effective.
e. The parties’ emotional state and any pressures being experienced are relevant but cannot be considered in isolation from what would have happened had that party not been under such pressures.
f. The circumstances of the parties are relevant including things such as age, maturity and previous relationships/marriage.
g. The Court must consider what is ‘fair’ in applying the provisions of the agreement whilst balancing the fact that the agreement itself is capable of altering what is fair.
h. The Court should be mindful that upholding an agreement respects the individual autonomy of the parties.
So it can be seen (particularly from point g.) that a Court may, as was the case in Hopkins, uphold, for the most part, the terms of a pre or post-nuptial agreement. Even though the Court may have reached a different decision had there been no such agreement signed by the parties.
What this means for you
Making a pre or post-nuptial agreement can help to avoid lengthy and costly disputes after the breakdown of a relationship or marriage.
These agreements aren’t entirely watertight. But by applying the principles set out above, the chances of both parties being held to the terms of the agreement are increased significantly.
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