As the average age for marriage increases and those entering marriage or civil partnerships are likely to have accrued considerable assets before they take the plunge so it makes sense to agree on what should happen if you need to be dividing up those assets at a later stage. It might not be the most romantic part of your plans but a pre-nuptial agreement could save heartache later on
The main reason why pre-nuptial contracts have not been not more common in England and Wales is that, strictly speaking, they are not binding. However in a growing number of cases the courts now accept that in a situation where the parties have a properly drawn up pre nuptial agreement its contents should be given weight. As the length of an average marriage is continuing to decrease the pre-nuptial agreement is likely to assume greater significance.
If you are planning to marry, and particularly where you hold assets which you might wish to preserve if the marriage breaks down, it may be sensible to seek advice on the steps you can take to protect your position. An agreement will commonly make provision that the parties each retain any property respectively owned before marriage and deal with what will happen to property such as a home purchased for joint occupation.
Even where you decide a pre-nup is not for you it, it can be sensible as part of your wedding plans to take legal advice on what will happen if one of you dies, for example to jointly owned property. A simple Will may ensure your intentions are met.
Prenuptial agreements are pretty common in countries like the USA, Germany and France. However, until recently, they were relatively rare in the UK. Some see them as cynical and unromantic – as if saying divorce is inevitable – others consider them a declaration that they’re marrying only for love.
Divorce has traditionally been a messy experience for all concerned. The law has been unclear, making financial outcomes difficult to predict. Presently, prenuptial agreements provide some protection for assets, however courts are not obliged to enforce them.
By John Todd Specialist Family and Litigation Solicitor, AMD Solicitors.