Published on 23 May, 2024 | Matt Hodgson

In a season which lifts the spirits, one of the regular heartwarming sights of summer is when the winners of golf’s Major tournaments are joined by their families to celebrate with their hard-earned trophies.

For all the dedication of those who succeed in team sports, there is something about the characterististics which golf’s champions require to reach the top of their discipline which inspires particular respect.

From tee to green, they must demonstrate not only technique but immense composure under pressure and self-reliance.

An example of the degree to which the greats can isolate themselves from potential distractions and remain “in the moment”, as sport psychologists say, has come in recent weeks courtesy of the Irish four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy.

Just 24 hours after triumphing in the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina, it was reported that he filed for divorce, stating that his marriage of seven years was “irretrievably broken” (

In my experience and that of my colleagues, breaking-up with a spouse is rarely a snap decision but follows lengthy consideration which can take its toll on workplace productivity, sleep and even health.

So, to compete and win in a sport in which the physical and mental demands are intensely personal while his marriage was coming to an end illustrates the ability of McIlroy and many of his fellow elite sportsmen and women to compartmentalise different parts of their lives in order to perform.

It is something which Hall Brown has extensive experience of. We have represented many individuals who have achieved some of the biggest honours in international sport while in the midst of circumstances like those of Rory McIlroy.

Similarly, people in a range of non-sporting professions are able to put their domestic difficulties to one side and focus on the job at hand.

I should point out, of course, that different people react to such sensitive situations in their own distinct ways. Some find it harder than others not to be affected.

In reading media coverage of Rory McIlroy’s predicament, I found myself wondering whether another reason for his calm on the course was having put a pre-nuptial agreement in place before marrying Erica Stoll.

When marital collapse results in stress, much is due to the sheer uncertainty of what comes after a divorce is completed.

Questions which commonly arise include whether a spouse who isn’t the household breadwinner will have enough money for a struggle-free future? Equally, will the well-off husband or wife lose a chunk of their wealth? What about prospective child arrangements?

Another frequent concern is whether discussions about how to divide joint marital assets will end up with the individuals concerned mired in lengthy conflict.

Two years ago, the first major reform in divorce law took effect with the intention of removing one possible source of strife during the process; namely, the need to apportion blame for the breakdown of a marriage (

Last month, there was another significant progressive development, a change in the rules which govern the proceedings in family courts across England and Wales (

It obliges couples in dispute about assets and children to show that they are considering the possibility of resolving their disagreements away from the court at every stage of their cases.

As my colleague Melanie Hadwin has remarked only this week on the Hall Brown ‘blog, it is part of a broader thrust by ministers, the judiciary and family lawyers to encourage couples to avoid trouble by regulating as much of their affairs themselves as they can rather than relying on the discretionary interpretation of divorce law by judges (

Nuptial agreements are one essential part of that overall legal landscape and have increasingly become so since a UK Supreme Court ruling in 2010 (

Yet while properly executed pre-nups carry what the Court in the Radmacher case described as “decisive weight”, they are still not binding.

Despite the Law Commission recommending in 2014 that “qualifying nuptial agreements” be given full legal weight (, no Government since has taken up the suggestion.

For the time being, it is up to individuals who wish to avoid the potential argument, costs and delay often associated with court proceedings to do what they can.

In that regard, people of all backgrounds – not just high-profile golfers like Rory McIlroy -continue to find pre-nups as useful in mitigating the risk of dispute as he has been adept in staying out of the rough and on the fairway during the course of his career.

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