Britain’s Most Expensive Divorce Lawyer and the Need for Pre-Nuptial Agreements

Britain’s Most Expensive Divorce Lawyer and the Need for Pre-Nuptial Agreements

The Daily Mail recently ran an article on Ayesha Vardag who acted for the German heiress Katrin Radmacher in 2010. This was the case that protected Miss Radmacher's £100 million fortune from her ex-husband Nicolas Granatino because of a Pre-Nuptial Agreement they had entered into. This was a radical change in British divorce law since when the Courts have been much more willing to uphold Pre-Nuptial Agreements.

Leaving aside the size of her hourly rate (quoted as being £795 plus VAT which the Daily Mail suggests makes her the most expensive divorce lawyer in the UK!) it is interesting to hear her comment on not just the Radmacher case but also the position on Pre-Nuptial Agreements generally. If the article in the Daily Mail can be relied upon Ayesha has her own Pre-Nuptial Agreement so it is encouraging that even the most expensive divorce lawyer in the country takes good advice as well as giving it!

With the rate of divorces in this country now approaching 1 in 2 the significance and future importance of Pre-Nuptial Agreements has never been greater. For a couple getting married at an early stage in their lives when their financial positions are roughly equal they might conclude that a Pre-Nuptial Agreement is not necessary. For those that might be entering into a second marriage or have inherited wealth earlier in their life Pre-Nuptial Agreements become very important and arguably vital. The Daily Mail quotes Ayesha as saying that "it is like thinking you don't need fire insurance because your house won't ever burn down" and that is a fair analogy. The discussion between an engaged couple about having a Pre-Nuptial Agreement may be a difficult one but arguably a Pre-Nuptial Agreement should be part of the pre wedding planning list along with booking a venue and ordering flowers. Is that an over materialistic approach or reality?

The increase in the divorce rate is not necessarily because marriages are less stable. The reality however is that everyone is living longer and during a marriage people do fall out of love with one another. Each (or both) spouses change and it is not an admission of failure to accept that. Making a Will is now accepted as essential (although scarily not everybody does have a Will). Lasting Powers of Attorney are catching up but are still not as widely used as should be the case. Pre-Nuptial Agreements are the next big growth area because in very uncertain times and the fear of what might happen on a divorce they are likely to become an even more essential part of pre-marriage planning. In fact there is an argument to say that with a Pre-Nuptial Agreement a couple should be even more confident about getting married as the fear about what might happen on a divorce and the financial repercussions is going to be safeguarded against.

The work of divorce lawyers could reduce substantially if everybody had a Pre-Nuptial Agreement. Rather like lawyers earning more money from disputes over Wills where they are not drawn up correctly (or there being no Will at all). Without a Pre-Nuptial Agreement the danger is that a divorcing couple are left in the hands of a Judge with ultimate discretion and no guarantee as to how such things as inherited wealth or pre-owned assets should be taken into account. Pre-Nuptial Agreements are not yet completely enforceable and there is still no legislation to give them formal status but if a Pre-Nuptial Agreement is objectively "fair" and the following three "rules" are carried out the starting point should be that the Pre-Nuptial Agreement is enforceable and it would be for the person opposing it to show good reason why it should not be upheld:

  1. Both of the couple take independent advice from a Solicitor.
  2. There is an exchange of financial information so that each knows what the other is worth.
  3. The Agreement is not entered into too close to the marriage and usually this should be more than 28 days beforehand.

There will always need to be provision for a change or at least a review should there be a fundamental alteration in the situation. In particular if the couple have children that could be a "deal changer" so there does need to be careful drafting of the Agreement but couples do not need to be paying Ayesha Vardag £795 plus VAT per hour for advice that a Pre-Nuptial Agreement is far better than not having one – bit of a no brainer really?!

Life After Divorce?

It was not that long ago that Dale Vince hit the headlines when his long since ex-wife managed to re-open their divorce and make a financial claim against the green energy innovator and now multi-millionaire. At the time of their divorce Dale Vince and his ex-wife were new age travelers and had no money so the divorce did not make any provision for a financial settlement. Years later after he had made his fortune claims were made by his ex-wife and she received a settlement reminding everybody that circumstances do change and it is vital that in addition to a divorce there is a Court Order that provides for no future claims being made.

Dale Vince has now hit the headlines again in that the football team he funds (Forest Green Rovers) has just won promotion to the football league. Dale Vince has used the club as an opportunity to spread his message about environmental issues and sustainability. The stadium is fitted with 180 solar panels and even the lawnmower for the pitch is solar powered! The catering at the stadium is entirely meat and dairy free with only vegan food served on match days in the club canteen. There are plans to move to a new stadium near to Stroud made almost entirely of wood which is to be called "Eco Park". Dale Vince has said that it will be "the greenest stadium in the world". His ex-wife is probably unlikely to be given a season ticket though!

Commentary by Neale Grearson, Head of Clapham & Collinge Family Law Department.

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