Apr 25, 2011

Will They or Won’t They?

As the countdown to the “Wedding of the Century” enters its final days, there has been much talk and speculation about all the details, the glamour, the pageantry and more.  Yes, I’m talking about the Royal Wedding between Prince William and his bride-to-be Kate Middleton.  For weeks, the newspapers, TV shows and the internet have focused on everything from the wedding party, to the guest list, to Ms. Middleton’s “new life” as a member of the Royal Family, and everything in between.  Another question that has circulated, albeit to a lesser degree, is whether or not the parties will execute a Prenuptial Agreement.   As a family law attorney, it’s hard not to wonder.

Years ago, this would not have been an issue, not because wedded bliss has reigned throughout Great Britain’s monarchy, but because such an agreement was not really an option.  It was not until October 10, 2010 that Prenuptial Agreements were recognized as enforceable under British divorce law.  For Sir Paul McCartney, that ruling was two years too late.  Many of those who followed his contentious divorce from Heather Mills questioned why McCartney did not have a Prenuptial Agreement.  The reason is that it would not have done him any good.  At the time of his divorce to Heather, Prenuptial Agreements in Britain were seen as merely “advisory” and not binding on the Divorce Court.  As a result, in March of 2008, Ms. Mills received an award of 24.3 Million Pounds ($40.2 Million), much less than she sought but certainly more than Sir Paul was hoping to pay.

However, in October 2010, in the midst of a contentious divorce between a German heiress and a French investment banker, the British supreme court, in an 8-1 decision, upheld the enforceability of the parties’ Prenuptial Agreement.  Before their 1998 London wedding, the parties had signed an agreement that neither would financially benefit from the marriage, in the event it ended.  Had the divorce been filed in either Germany or France, no question would have arisen as to the principle of enforceability, but the case was groundbreaking for Britain.  In fact, others have viewed the decision as “merely catching up” to what is commonplace in the United States and much of Europe.

A valid Prenuptial Agreement can often times help streamline a divorce, avoiding the stress of protracted litigation, a costly legal bill and, in some cases, unwanted publicity.  While the parties’ relationship may all be sunshine and roses before the wedding, making a Prenuptial Agreement a very difficult issue to bring up, I am sure somebody has discussed the possibility with Prince William.  Given the messy (and very public) divorce battles involving Prince William’s own parents as well as his aunt and uncle, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, combined with the wealth of both parties, a Prenuptial Agreement is something that should seriously be considered.

With the wedding less than a week away, it is very likely that a decision on the issue has already been made.  I wish the happy couple the best in their future life together, and with any luck, the rest of the world will never know whether or not they entered into a Prenuptial Agreement.  But I would bet the topic was most certainly discussed (at least on one side).

And don’t forget, Prenuptial Agreements aren’t just for rockstars and princes.  The same potential benefits of a prenuptial agreement apply to regular folks like you and me; in the State of Illinois, they are typically upheld and enforced.  So while you may not be a prince (or princess-to-be), if you are getting married, you should still consider the potential benefits of a Prenuptial Agreement.

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