In Ireland, there is no particular legislation dealing with Pre-nuptial Agreements. Their position in Irish Law remains unclear. In other countries Pre-nuptial Agreements are legally binding and enforced by the Courts.
However, times are changing. Historically, pre nuptial Agreements in Ireland were for the most part, unheard of. It was thought to be against public policy to have parties about to marry, enter into an agreement which dealt with matters in the event that they separated. It was felt that such Agreements might encourage husbands and wives to separate. With the Introduction of Divorce legislation in 1996 and the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act in 2010, pre nuptial Agreements may become more common in the future. These Agreements may prove useful in circumstances where people are entering into second marriages and do not intend to have more children in their second marriage. People in such situations may want to protect their property and savings for the benefit of their children of their first marriage. Indeed, people may just want to protect wealth that they have acquired and worked hard for during their lives.
A Government working Group on Pre- Nuptial Agreements set up in 2007 made certain recommendations in relation to Pre-Nuptial Agreements so clearly we are making some move towards them. They believed that each party should be independently legally and financially advised before entering into a Pre-Nuptial Agreement. They felt that full financial disclosure of all assets, liabilities and income should be made by both parties. The Working Group also noted that no pressure or stress should be put on a person to sign a Prenuptial Agreement. The Group also recommended that Pre-nuptial Agreements should be executed several weeks before a marriage takes place.
The recent UK high profile case of of Radmacher -v- Granatino is interesting. Ms Radmacher, was an heiress to a German paper making business. She and her intended husband Nicolas Granatino signed a pre-nuptial prior to their marriage in 1998. Mr Granatino was an investment banker who took up a job for £30,000-a-year working as a researcher at Oxford University after they married. The couple subsequently separated in 2006 and Mr Granatino sought a sizeable Divorce settlement. He claimed in Court that he never knew when he signed the pre-nuptial agreement, that his intended wife was worth in excess of £ 100 million. He did not take legal advice prior to signing the Agreement. The High Court in England awarded Mr Granatino £5.6million. This award was reduced to £1million plus maintenance payments by the Court of Appeal. Clearly unhappy with this decision Mr Granatino appealed the decision to the Supreme Court but the Supreme Court dismissed his appeal by the majority of 8:1.
Although this is an UK decision, Irish Courts tend to have regard to UK decisions and it certainly seems that the UK Supreme Court is supportive of Pre Nuptial Agreements provided certain procedures are adhered to. This indeed may be the route Irish Courts take in dealing with Pre Nuptial Agreements in the future, time will tell.
By Freda Brenann.
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