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Pre-Nups Could Protect Women From ‘Predatory’ Men In Divorce

Member: Nifa

As proposals from the Law Commission on the implementation of binding pre-nuptial agreements are put before the Government, a Peer has called for a law to allow couples to settle the terms of their divorce, in a bid to stop men marrying wealthy women and then running off with a large share of their wealth.  Of course the provisions would apply equally in cases in which it was the man who was the wealthy party or in the case of civil partnerships.

Baroness Deech has said that she intends to bring a pre-nup Bill into the Lords shortly with the aim of getting a law made before the election, which could not be the case with the Law Commission’s proposed Bill.  The Law Commission is proposing that married couples and civil partners should be able to make binding agreements about how their property or finances should be shared if their relationship breaks down.  Such agreements would only apply in the cases of couple whose assets were more than was necessary to meet their respective reasonable needs.

However, any such agreements would only be binding if both partners had disclosed all relevant information about their finances at least 28 days before the wedding or civil partnership.  This condition, which is allied with the proviso that both partners must have had legal advice before they entered into an agreement, is key.  One of the problems couples can sometimes face when they divorce is that one partner has hidden assets so that the other spouse cannot get a fair share.

In these situations, the best recourse for the ‘poorer’ party is to engage a firm of forensic accountants, who can find out the true state of their spouse’s finances and, in many cases, help them to arrive at a fair settlement.  The investigators will leave no piece of evidence unexamined and can find assets that have been hidden very cleverly, as in the prominent case last year of property tycoon Scot Young, whose wife Michelle finally won a £20m settlement even after Mr Young claimed to have lost his fortune.

After the case, Mrs Young called for a law similar to the one proposed, so that women can be protected from men who “conveniently find they suddenly have no assets” when they divorce.  However, given Baroness Deech’s scenario, this will equally apply to husbands.

Author: Roger Isaacs, 4 March 2014

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