Protecting assets with pre-nuptial agreements

It was recently announced that the Russian billionaire and owner of Chelsea football club, Roman Abramovich, is separating from his third wife, Dasha Zhukova. There is no word yet as to whether the couple intend to divorce, but the news has already led to speculation that this could be Mr Abramovich’s costliest divorce yet, and possibly the most expensive divorce in history.

Just how costly the divorce will be, if it goes ahead, will depend upon a number of factors. For example, his second wife, Irina, reportedly received a divorce settlement of $300 million in 2007, a sum that many consider could have been much higher if the divorce had happened in England rather than Russia, as the English divorce courts are generally considered to be more generous to wives than courts in other countries.

Another factor is whether the couple entered into a pre-nuptial agreement.

A pre-nuptial agreement is, as the name suggests, a written agreement entered into by the parties before they get married, although it is also possible to enter into an agreement after the marriage (a ‘post-nuptial’). The agreement will usually state what is to happen to the parties’ property in the event of them getting divorced. Pre-nuptial agreements are often used by parties to protect their assets, by saying that they will keep all or most of them after the divorce.

The approach of the courts in England and Wales to pre-nuptial agreements was set out by the Supreme Court in 2010. The Supreme Court held that the court should give effect to such agreements, where they are freely entered into by each party, with a full appreciation of the implications of the agreement, unless it would not be fair in the circumstances to hold the parties to the agreement, for example because it failed to meet the needs of one of the parties, or of any children. This means that most pre-nuptial agreements are likely to be upheld by the court, but the court will always have the last word.

If you want to have a pre-nuptial agreement drawn up, or if you want advice as to whether the court is likely to uphold a pre-nuptial agreement that you have entered into, then you will need the assistance of a specialist family lawyer. Family Law Cafe can help you find a specialist. You can call us on 020 3904 0506 or email us at

Image of Roman Abramovich’s yacht Eclipse docked in Nassau, by DCwom (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.