As the euphoric flurry of Valentine’s Day proposals starts to diminish, engaged couples would be wise to consider taking out pre-nups – particularly if they have tied the knot before.
The importance of planning such agreements is also timely following a recent survey which revealed that one in ten married Brits regret not insisting that their husband or wife signed a pre-nuptial agreement.
It may seem unromantic, but a frank talk about financial provisions before tying the knot could help prevent heartbreak in the long term.
Disagreements about money are one of the major causes of bitterness, uncertainty, anxiety and cost arising from marital breakdown marital breakdown. It is far better to have agreed how to split your assets and to have drawn up a prenuptial agreement before you say ‘I do’.
Prenups are on the increase, and are particularly popular with couples marrying for a second time. Here are answers to seven of the most commonly asked questions:
I’m not super rich – is a prenup right for me?
While it’s true that pre-nuptial agreements were once regarded as the preserve of the wealthy, people with more modest incomes are increasingly seeking advice because they understand the benefits of setting one in place.
If you want to ensure that your finances, house and other assets are shared fairly on divorce then a prenup is for you.
Why do people opt for a prenup?
For all kinds of reasons. They may be marrying for a second time and want to preserve certain assets for their children from previous relationships. They may likewise want to ensure that children from this second marriage will be treated fairly if the relationship breaks down.
Some people seek to protect inherited wealth or savings built up before the marriage.
Does a premarital agreement mean I can hide money from my fiancée?
It must be stressed that trying to hide assets is never acceptable. All engaged people should have full and frank discussions with their partners about finances before they sign a pre-nuptial arrangement.
Prenups can help protect every asset you own – you can also ring fence as much or as little as you like. If you haven’t been open and transparent when you signed the agreement, then a court could throw it out should you and your partner divorce.
Are prenups legally binding?
They are not currently legally binding in England and Wales, although the law may change. However, a carefully thought through agreement, drawn up with independent advice, is quite likely to be upheld by a court. Prenups are also more likely to be accepted by a divorce judge if they were agreed well in advance of a marriage – and if there is no implication that one party was coerced into signing.
I’m remarrying and my fiancée and I both have children – do we need a premarital arrangement?
Most definitely. The hope is that you and your partner have a long and lasting marriage, however when you both have children it would be sensible to ensure that they are provided for if you do divorce.
Failure to do this could result in your children from your first marriage receiving nothing. This is because your assets could automatically default to your most recent wife and to any children you have together. As your fiancée has children too, it is most certainly in their interests to draw up a prenup.
When should I draw up such an arrangement?
The sooner the better – and at least 21 days before the wedding if you want to ensure that the prenup is as watertight as possible. The difficulties encountered with pre-nup agreements are that judges remain concerned when the agreements are signed under pressure. There is little time to reflect or be confident about the terms and judges may ignore or vary them.
How do I find out more?
You should contact a collaborative law firm – have a look at Resolution for lawyers in your area.
Your lawyer will encourage you and your partner to look at your finances and to consider how your married lives might pan out – for example, if you have children and one of you gives up work. Good planning and being well informed are key to a robust prenup.
Peter Jones is one of the country’s leading and most sought-after divorce and family lawyers, and one of only four qualified arbitrators in Yorkshire.
A former Deputy District Judge for 15 years, he set up the first niche family law firm in the north of England in 1992 – Jones Myers – and has acted for a string of high-profile clients.
Renowned for his sympathetic approach, he is a former national chairman of Resolution (formerly the Solicitors Family Law Association) – an organisation of over 6,500 family lawyers who are committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes.
Leeds and Essex based Jones Myers, consistently top-rated Yorkshire family law firm by Chambers and the Legal 500 Legal Guides, has been one of the pioneers of collaborative family law – known as the ‘pain-free way to divorce’ – which advocates a more amicable, and often speedier, route to divorce, without resorting to the courts.