Uncertainty in the application of pre-nuptial agreements

Uncertainty in the application of pre-nuptial agreements

Family analysis: Why is there a lack of clarity when enforcing pre-nuptial agreements? Hannah Mabbutt, solicitor in the family team at Kingsley Napley LLP, offers a comprehensive overview of WW v HW and explains that the case demonstrates a need for further clarity in pre-nuptial agreements.

Original news

WW v HW [2015] EWHC 1844 (Fam), [2015] All ER (D) 167 (Jul)

In a claim for financial provision, the Family Division determined the husband’s needs in light of a pre-nuptial agreement and other surrounding factors, in circumstances where the wife had significant inherited wealth. The court gave detailed consideration as to the law in relation to pre-nuptial agreements and the principles set out in the leading authority, the Supreme Court’s decision in Radmacher (formerly Granatino) v Granatino [2011] 1 All ER 373, [2010] UKSC 42.

What was the background to this case?

Husband (H) and wife (W) met in the summer of 2000 and married two years later on 4 July 2002. W had come into a significant inheritance at a young age following the death of her father. Her assets were virtually all inherited, held in trust for her, and in shared ownership with the rest of her family and, at the time of judgment, were valued at approximately £27m.

At W’s behest, prior to their marriage H and W both took independent legal advice and entered into a pre-nuptial agreement some three weeks before their wedding. The key provisions of that agreement were as follows:

  • the primary purpose was to protect W’s inherited property from a sharing claim
  • the agreement made no provision for the parties’ respective needs
  • the agreement expressly left open the possibility for either H or W to make a claim in relation to provision for their children

For the purposes of the agreement, H disclosed an income from royalties from his film production company of £80,000 per annum plus other income that, while being £60,000 in 2002, he asserted had been £200,000 in each of the two preceding years. By

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