Getting married? Think about a pre-nup

March 20, 2017 by Sue McArthur

Pre-Nup – Collaborative Style

Collaborative lawyers don’t just deal with divorce and separation. Increasingly, couples who are planning their wedding, are asking for pre-nuptial agreements (a pre-nup) setting out how assets would be divided in the event that marriage breaks down.

Whilst this may not seem romantic, planning for the ‘what if’s’ at a time when a couple are excited about their new lives together, can be the best time to iron out wrinkles – that way they can ensure they clearly understand each other’s priorities before tying the knot.

Many people who make pre-nups are getting married for a second time and want to safeguard assets for adult children of their previous marriage. Others are from wealthy families who want to protect family assets, and especially inheritances, in the event of the marriage breaking down.

Although not binding, pre-nups are recognised by the English courts and following a recent case, are likely to be upheld as long as certain criteria are met. One of the factors the court will take into account when deciding whether to uphold a pre-nup is whether both parties have had independent legal advice and there has been full financial disclosure. The other pertinent factor is that the pre-nup has to have been prepared in plenty of time before the wedding (more than 21 days) otherwise there would be an argument to say that it could have been signed under duress.

Pre-nups can contain anything the couple want. In America clauses have included bizarre things such as maximum weight levels for the bride and undertakings that a certain number of hot meals must be provided each week! Clauses about pets and promises not to put comments on social media in the event of a break-up can also be included as well as the more standard clauses about how to divide up property.

A recent Financial Times article suggested that the cost of lawyers preparing a pre-nup could run into many thousands of pounds. Whilst this may be true for the very rich and famous, the vast majority of pre-nups are straightforward and can usually be drafted for a modest fixed fee. Bearing mind the average cost of a wedding and honeymoon is in the region of £25,000 the additional cost of the pre-nup is money well spent, giving you clarity and peace of mind.

The build up to the wedding is obviously a happy time so we would recommend that a pre-nuptial agreement should be prepared collaboratively. This means the couple sit around the table with their lawyers as a team to talk things through and agree the terms face to face. That way, there can be no misunderstandings and the team can work together to achieve the best possible outcome for the couple.

By Fiona Ryans, Beecham Peacock Solicitors