A hotel concierge who married an Avon Cosmetics heiress has been awarded £1.3million despite having signed a pre-nuptial agreement.

Mr Justice Mostyn, in the family division of the High Court, has ruled that Anil Ipekci – who married Morgan McConnell in 2005 – said he made the decision based on Mr Ipekci’s needs. Under the pre-nuptial, Mr Ipekci would have received a half share in the increase in value of three properties owned by his wife should they divorce. But due to the fact these properties had not gone up in value, under the terms of the pre-nuptial he would have received nothing.

What do we need to know?

Whilst pre-nuptial agreements are not legally binding in England and Wales their existence will be a relevant circumstance and can have decisive weight on how the court exercises its discretion. This guidance was given in the Supreme Court case of Radmacher –v- Granatino and confirmed that ‘the court should give effect to a nuptial agreement that is freely entered into by each party with a full appreciation of its implications unless in the circumstances prevailing it would not be fair to hold the parties to their agreement’.

The judge in the case in question ruled that it would be "wholly unfair" to hold Mr Ipekci to the deal and made his decision about the size of the payout based on Mr Ipekci's needs.

What does this case highlight?

  • Parties need to make sure that their agreements pass the test of fairness and to do this they need to ensure needs have been adequately considered. If the effect of the pre-nuptial agreement would be to leave one party with less than his or her needs, while the other party is comfortably provided for, this is likely to be unfair. Needs will be based on the amount a party needs to spend to maintain a standard of living not too dissimilar from that enjoyed during the marriage.
  • While many may be asking why have a pre-nuptial if the court can depart from its terms, the existence of the agreement will still have had decisive weight, he court should only depart from the terms by such extent necessary to meet needs. In the absence of the pre-nuptial agreement the court's starting point would be to apply a principle of sharing to all the assets, regardless of the source of those assets.