With the announcement that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are set to marry in Spring 2018, one thing which may be crossing the minds of family lawyers across the country is whether the royal couple will enter into a Prenuptial Agreement. Whilst not the most romantic of considerations, perhaps it would be a practical one.
What is a Prenuptial Agreement?
A prenuptial agreement is a document which is entered into before the marriage, which sets out the prospective spouses’ rights in relation to any assets which they have brought into the relationship and those acquired during the marriage. The agreements can specify how those assets should be treated, in the event the marriage ends in divorce.
Who can get a Prenuptial Agreement?
It’s a popular misconception that prenuptial agreements are reserved for the (extremely) rich and famous. A prenuptial agreement can be a useful tool in any relationship where the parties wish to have greater control of their assets on divorce. Prenuptial agreements are often entered into where one party has inherited wealth, which their family wishes to retain for future generations or have children from a prior marriage whom they wish to protect, or simply want to ring-fence their own pre-acquired assets.
Is a Prenuptial Agreement binding?
Since the landmark ruling of Radmacher v Granatino (2010), prenuptial agreements are generally considered binding by the Court unless it would not be fair to hold a party to the agreement. Circumstances which could make an agreement unfair include:
- If one party had been under duress or undue emotional pressure at the time of entering into the agreement;
- If one party exploited a dominant bargaining position;
- If one party had misrepresented their financial position to the other.
Perhaps the biggest consideration is whether the prenuptial agreement meets the parties’ needs and particularly the needs of the children. The Supreme Court has made it quite clear that a prenuptial agreement which did not meet the needs of the children is very unlikely to be upheld.
Will Prince Harry and Ms Markle enter into a Prenuptial Agreement?
It would be quite unlikely. Despite there being a significant disparity in the wealth being brought into the marriage, it is not in the tradition of the Royal Family to enter into prenuptial agreements. Royalists can worry not however, as should the marriage break down, Ms Markle’s claims are likely to be based on her ‘needs’ rather than an equal share of the Royal’s wealth (i.e. she won’t be receiving a share of Buckingham Palace!)
Famously, Princess Diana’s ‘needs’ were generously interpreted following her divorce from Prince Charles in 1996 with the Princess reportedly receiving £17.5m, together with a home in Kensington Palace and an allowance for her private office. Ms Markle can therefore be confident that the Royal Family will ensure that her needs are met, even if the marriage does break down.
Whilst it is very much hoped that the royal marriage will be a long and happy one, if you are about to be married and are concerned about protecting your assets, speak to a solicitor well in advance of the wedding to give yourself the best chance of obtaining a binding prenuptial agreement.