‘Stray’ partners might lose all in UK divorce settlements

Couple insist on prenuptial agreement especially with infidelity penalty clause to protect their assets from partners who ‘stray’ after the Supreme Court gave its legal backing on a landmark case of German heiress Katrin Radmacher in 2010.

The Supreme Court ruled that the prenuptial agreement for the German heiress Katrin Radmacher in 2010 should be taken into account when assessing her divorce settlement.

As a result of this ruling, growing number of couples opting for prenuptial agreement are also adding ‘infidelity penalty clause’ in their prenuptial agreements’ The Clause means that if unfaithful, the adulterer will lose much of their share.

A prenuptial agreement is an important decision that should be taken into consideration by a couple before entering into marriage or civil partnership in the UK.

This is a pre-marriage contract where the couple decides on how the assets are to be divided in the event of a split or a divorce. The contract has to be drawn up and both parties sign after taking independent legal advice from a lawyer, no more than 28 days before the marriage or civil partnership.

To many, a prenuptial agreement might seem like an unreasonable proposal especially where couple might insist on adding an ‘adultery or an infidelity clause’

However, according to a top divorce lawyer Ayesha Vardag – adultery clauses are now ‘at the fore’ of the development of a prenuptial deal and the ‘Clause means that if unfaithful, the adulterer will lose much of their share’

A prenuptial agreement is common amongst the celebrities and the wealthy. They are often likely to use this agreement to protect their assets from potential people who are regarded as opportunistic or “gold-diggers” or the materialistic marital partners. Celebrity divorces which were settled quickly as a result of prenups are believed to be that of Charles Saatchi who divorced from Nigella Lawson in 2013, Tom Cruise divorced from Katie Homes in 2012 and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch from Wendi Deng in 2013.

The important focus point of this agreement or the primary concern of the prenuptial agreement is with the assets that one or both of the partners own prior to the marriage or civil partnership. The infidelity or the adultery penalty clause, however, will no doubt be detrimental for a husband or wife who is discovered to be unfaithful.

This means the concept of ‘fault’ to English divorce law is likely to return in any of these proceedings. The couple who opt for this clause are returning to the traditional ideas that when a marriage fails someone is to be blamed and the one at ‘fault’ should pay, even though the politicians and the other influencers have tried to eradicate this idea of ‘fault’ from the marriage law. Their justification is on the grounds that it is both difficult and unfair to try and identify and punish the partner who is responsible for a marriage break-up.

Most celebrities and wealthy people are seizing the legal opportunities of a prenuptial or pre-marriage contract but it is wise that more people should consider taking this opportunity especially where religious ceremonies are conducted in an arranged marriages.

Religious ceremonies and Islamic marriage contracts such as a Nika within the Asian cultures are valueless as it is not recognised under the UK law. However, a prenuptial agreement with the same concept as a religious marriage contract would be ideal to form a legal contract to be recognised by the UK divorce courts. Where the celebrities and wealthy often use a prenuptial agreement to protect themselves from opportunistic marriage partners, this prenup can be used to protect spouses from so called the visa seeking ‘opportunistic’ partners likewise.

The prenups or pre-marriage contracts are important as it will protect family homes, incomes, pensions and other assets from expensive divorce settlement which are likely to be imposed by divorce courts.

Although pre-nuptial agreement is not enforceable in the UK yet, the landmark case of German heiress Radmacher v. Granatino means that it will be extremely difficult for the UK divorce courts to ignore pre-marriage contracts or the prenuptial agreements and everyone should seize the opportunity to draw up a prenuptial agreement.