A divorce is one of the most stressful things that can happen to anyone. Not only is there the bitter disappointment at the ending of a marriage, but the division of assets between the two former spouses can cause further resentment.
The division of assets can cause particular bitterness if one of the couple entered the marriage with assets and wealth of his/her own. They may feel it grossly unfair that a court may award a large proportion of those assets to their former spouse.
One way to avoid this is through a prenuptial agreement.
Prenuptial Agreements – what are they?
A Prenuptial Agreement (also known as a Prenup, Prenuptial Contract or Premarriage Agreement) is an agreement made by a couple before marriage as to how their property should be split should they divorce.
With the increasing numbers of divorces these days, and given the powers of the court to re-distribute family property, these Prenuptial Contracts have emerged in America and to a lesser extent in England as an option to try to protect the separate property of either or both spouses at the end of their marriage.
Is a Prenuptial Agreement binding in the UK?
Although they are currently unenforceable under English law, a Prenuptial Contract properly drafted by a specialist family solicitor can be persuasive evidence to the court in showing how a couple agreed before they married to split up their property – this may have a significant impact on the outcome of a divorce case.
It is increasingly possible that an existing Prenuptial Agreement could become enforceable in the future – particularly following the case of the German heiress, Karen Radmacher, which was reported back in 2010, and which appear to show that the British courts were willing to accept that “decisive weight” be given to a Prenuptial Agreement in the UK. This decision seems likely to prove a significant step towards the prenup becoming legally enforceable in England and Wales.
A Prenuptial Agreement is perhaps particularly relevant to those with inherited assets they wish to keep within the family, and those who remarry later in life. Our solicitors provide legal advice to clients about Prenuptial Agreements in Wiltshire, Hampshire, Somerset and Dorset and throughout the UK.
Why would I need a prenup?
Prenuptial agreements, which by definition are signed before the wedding day, offer several advantages, particularly to those taking the greatest wealth into the relationship. In short, what you take into the marriage stays yours should it all end in divorce.
Another advantage of the prenup is that it may also take into account how assets gathered during the marriage are to be divided if you end up with a divorce. Through newspaper reports, you may have heard of prenuptial agreements involving the rich and famous. But you do not have to be rich, or even famous to appreciate the advantages of a prenup.
While a prenuptial can hardly be seen as romantic, they could be seen as prudent planning for the future should things between you and your spouse go badly wrong.
Considering a prenuptial agreement – 4 things you need to know
If you are seriously thinking about making a UK prenup, there are a few basic things you should be aware of;
- Firstly, make the agreement at least 6 weeks before the date of the wedding. If it is signed any later a court could well rule that it was drawn up while one of the parties was under duress.
- Secondly, seek legal advice. A prenuptial agreement is legally binding and a solicitor will ensure it is watertight. In particular make sure that the legal advice you seek is from a solicitor specialising in prenuptial agreement. A court may well refuse to even consider a “do it yourself” prenup in a divorce hearing.
- The couple should disclose details of all their assets to each other when making the prenup. It is usually worthwhile providing copies of financial documents to support the level of financial assets at this time. If they fail to do this the courts may refuse to consider to take the agreement into account when reaching a financial settlement
- And lastly, even if the agreement has been dealt with by a solicitor and is all above board, a court may reject it if the marriage is only short lived.
Is a prenuptial agreement limited to financial issues?
No. A prenup can take into account any children one of the parties take into the marriage. The prenuptial contract can decide which of the children gets what, should the couple divorce.
Our Prenuptial Agreement Solicitors can see you in our Salisbury, Andover, or Amesbury offices. Our solicitors also regularly prepare prenuptial agreements for clients throughout Wiltshire Hampshire and Dorset, and further afield.