Pre-nups get legal force - including weird ones

Pre-nup agreements will soon carry the force of law, under government plans. Couples about to marry will be able to sign contracts setting out how their assets will be divided if they divorce.

Currently, judges in divorce cases can take pre-nups into consideration when deciding a settlement, but they can also ignore them if they like.

Pre-nups could soon become common, especially among couples where one or both are wealthy. There could also be post-nups, which are sometimes drawn up when a spouse becomes wealthy through inheritance or the like after the marriage has taken place.

Pre-nups have been an issue in some high-profile divorce cases. Last year German heiress Katrin Radmacher, who is worth £100 million, won a court battle against her ex-husband Nicolas Granatino over their pre-nup. It had been drawn up before their marriage in 1998 and his lawyers said the courts should ignore it. He had been given £5 million when they divorced, but demanded twice that. The Supreme Court decided that the contract should stand and reduced the amount Granatino received to a tiny £1 million.

Proper law

The government has told the Law Commission to create a proper law concerning pre-nups.

Many high-profile divorces would never have come to court if a pre-nup had been signed. If Paul McCartney and Heather Mills (pictured above) had drawn one up, perhaps she would not have walked away with £24 million of his cash.

In America, pre-nups are quite common and can often contain surprising clauses. They have included the right to conduct regular drug tests on the spouse, with fines for failure; one spouse having a maximum of a single football game on a Sunday per season; a $100,000 fine for each time the spouse was unfaithful; and an agreed maximum weight for the wife of 120lbs, with a $100,000 penalty if it went above that.

When actors Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen married, it was reported that they had signed a pre-nup with a $4m penalty for extra-marital affairs, to be paid by the unfaithful spouse.

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