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The impending divorce of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has once again shone a spotlight on prenuptial agreements. Some reports suggest the world’s richest man and his estranged wife MacKenzie Bezos did not have one in place. Given the vast amount of money and assets at stake in this divorce, the lack of a prenup may complicate and lengthen proceedings.

Prenups are certainly not the answer to everything. Particularly in a case as complex as the Bezos split. But these agreements, recognised in every US state, do often simplify division of assets following divorce.

ARE PRENUPS ENFORCEABLE?

What about the UK? We’ve written about the legality of prenups in this country before and the law is developing all the time. Generally speaking if the agreement is ‘fair’ courts will rely on it. But it’s the definition of ‘fair’ that could add an element of uncertainty to any prenuptial agreement you sign. For example:

  • Did each party receive independent legal advice?
  • Was there full disclosure of each side’s financial position?
  • When was the agreement signed? Ideally any prenup should be executed at least two months ahead of marriage to avoid any suggestion that undue pressure was applied to the financially weaker spouse.

Because a prenup involves altering the rights you may have under the general law it’s essential to seek advice from an experienced family solicitor before entering any agreement.

INTERNATIONAL DIVORCE AND PRENUPS

At Brookman in London we advise regularly on international divorce. Often there will be a prenup in place. Enforceability can become a matter of contention. Questions that may arise include:

  • Can UK courts enforce a prenup signed abroad?
  • Are foreign assets covered by the prenup?

Everything depends on what the original agreement says about jurisdiction and the law that governs the agreement. The recent case of DB v PB (2016) showed that the courts in England and Wales will uphold jurisdiction clauses even where it might be unfair to the financially weaker spouse to do so.

The case involved a Swedish couple that had signed three prenuptial agreements. Each agreement provided that it should be interpreted according to the law of Sweden and that any maintenance claims should be heard by Swedish courts. The wife issued proceedings in England but the judge found that because of the prenup, his hands were tied. While he could order the sale of the family home, that was all he could do. Even though he was ‘completely satisfied’ that the wife’s needs would not be met by the sale of the home alone. Any other order would mean straying into the area of maintenance and the needs of the wife and children – which the prenup did not allow. He was obliged to respect the parties’ autonomy.

CAN I CHANGE A PRENUP?

As we have seen above the overriding concern of the courts when looking at a prenup governed by English law is to decide whether it’s fair or not. As the length of a marriage increases, circumstances change. Marital wealth may increase or diminish significantly (Jeff Bezos hadn’t even started Amazon when he married). There may be children. What was fair on the day you married may not be fair a few years down the line.

Courts will always bear in mind the parties’ freedom to enter a prenup. But when a long marriage ends, the greater the onus will be on the person seeking to rely on a prenup to establish that it remains fair.

For this reason we recommend you review your prenup every four or five years or when a significant life event occurs. This will involve a deed of variation or a postnuptial agreement.

HOW DO I DISCUSS A PRENUP WITH MY PARTNER?

In our experience some people can feel awkward about bringing up the idea of a prenuptial agreement with their partner. They are uncomfortable discussing what might happen to finances and property if the marriage fails. And this is understandable. But it helps if:

  • You raise the idea of a prenup as early as possible
  • You point out that it will be designed to protect the financially weaker party
  • It can make any divorce less complicated and less expensive
  • You suggest preparing the initial agreement together

There’s no getting round the fact that a discussion about prenups can be delicate. But at Brookman it’s our job to sensitively guide you through the process. Remember, we will be working with your partner’s own legal adviser. It’s typically a requirement that both of you receive independent advice. In our experience this arms length negotiation helps remove some of the emotion from the situation.

For further advice call us on 44 (0) 20 7430 8470 or contact us online.

The Facts About Prenups

Date: February 13th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  The impending divorce of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has once again shone a spotlight on prenuptial agreements. Some reports suggest the world’s richest man and his estranged wife MacKenzie Bezos did not have one in place. Given the vast amount of money and assets at stake in this divorce, the lack of a prenup… Read the full article

New Year: Time To Take Stock?

Date: January 25th, 2019 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  January will soon be behind us. And with it what now seems to be an annual fixture – ‘divorce day’. If you didn’t know, that’s the first working Monday after Christmas. According to some lawyers and many media outlets, it is when there is a notable spike in divorce enquiries. This year, we’ve noticed… Read the full article

What Now For No-Fault Divorce?

Date: October 10th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Back in June 2018 we wrote about no-fault divorce and the possible impact the case of Owens v Owens might have on the current system of divorce in England and Wales. In June the Supreme Court was still considering the merits of Mrs. Owens’ claim that she was ‘locked’ in a 37-year marriage. The… Read the full article

Widowed Parent’s Allowance: Can Cohabitees Claim?

Date: October 4th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

    As the law stands cohabitees are not able to claim the government-funded widowed parents allowance (WPA). Campaigners like pressure group Resolution argue that it’s just one example of the discriminatory treatment of the six million or so people who live together without being married. But could a recent Supreme Court decision mean the… Read the full article

Will I have to split my inheritance if I divorce?

Date: August 27th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  The division of assets is often a thorny issue in divorce. What forms part of the matrimonial ‘pot’ available for division? And what assets should be ring-fenced from inclusion in the financial settlement? Many people believe inherited money or property should not be in the mix when it comes to divorce. That’s because an… Read the full article

What is a separation agreement?

Date: August 21st, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  A separation agreement or ‘Deed of Separation’ is often used as a precursor to divorce. You and your spouse or civil partner may not yet be absolutely sure that you want to divorce. Or you may not be able to establish the necessary grounds for divorce but wish to live apart. In these circumstances… Read the full article

What Happens If My Spouse Spends Heavily Before Our Divorce To Reduce My Financial Settlement?

Date: July 20th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  It’s a well-worn divorce cliché. An aggrieved spouse starts to empty joint accounts and spend his or her savings to stop the other benefitting from the money in an imminent divorce settlement. We have already seen that full financial disclosure is required in divorce proceedings. And we have also looked at what happens when… Read the full article

When My Business Partner Divorces Is There A Risk That The Business Could Be Split?

Date: July 12th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  If you are in business with someone going through a divorce the fear that your co-owner’s changed financial circumstances could threaten your business is understandable. But it’s important to realise that it is difficult for a court to unilaterally make an order in divorce proceedings that could affect third parties such as a business… Read the full article


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Brookman Solicitors

70 Reviews

Yesima Hamid 04/09/2020

I want to highly commend Brookman Solicitors firm. I had the privilege of getting very thorough and sensible advice from their solicitor Jennifer Douglas. I don't have enough praise for her. She made me feel at ease and 'got me' and understood very well all the issues and her advice was on point. I felt she had my interest at heart in all the different matters. She was very accommodating and willing. She truly made a difference. She has great insight and I truly recommend her and the firm. They are very professional with the human touch.

Roohie Mahajan 16/08/2020

I am so happy that I hired their services. I am from India and it was my international divorce case. My ex husband is in the UK. I had a free telephone conversation with Henry Brookman and I was so satisfied that without even meeting him I was so confident. My case was handled in the best way possible.

He is probably the one of the best lawyers in the world. He is extremely competent, professional, intelligent and empathetic. The only lawyer who genuinely work to help you rather than making money. He is a very experienced lawyer and he saved me so much money. He is so calm and kind towards his approach. He is the most genuine person I have come across.

I just came to London once to attend my hearing. My husband and his solicitors made it so complicated. My ex husband has to spend double the amount of legal fees than me. This is the difference between hiring a good experienced lawyer. Their fees might be expensive but good lawyer will make you save money at the end. Finally at the end I won the case and my husband has to pay all my legal fees without me travelling to the UK. I will always be eternally grateful to Henry Brookman and Brookman Solicitors. I am falling short of words to praise them.

I highly recommend their services. Keep up the good work.

Jen Ade 23/07/2020

I had an initial consultation and Henry was well prepared. He gave great advice and followed through quite quickly. He was very helpful.

Chris Mullins 15/07/2020

Henry and team were most professional, considerate and efficient when handling the financial proceedings owing to my overseas divorce. I recommend their services highly. International circumstance was at first to me most daunting and confusing, given each country had its' own unique approach. Thankfully Henry was knowledgeable of the law on either side of the seas and able therefore to provide best guidance and reasoning to me which enabled favourable settlement!

Wim Jansen 24/06/2020

I contacted Brookman to ask for information regarding the validity of an international divorce court ruling. They were very quick in providing me with the right information. When I had another question a few months later around children matters I phoned them again and after taking some background information and contact details they booked me in for a free telephone consultation with 1 of their partners Talitha Brookman. She spent half an hour of her time explaining to me what I could expect and provided legal advice. All was free of charge. I would not hesitate to contact them again should any matter become more formal and have to go through court. The service has been quick, professional and very friendly.