Nobody gets married with separation in mind, but sadly, more than 100,000 marriages per year end in divorce in the UK, according to the most recent Office for National Statistics figures.
With people choosing to marry later in life, having already purchased a property, received an inheritance or accrued significant wealth, it is becoming increasingly common that couples are taking a pragmatic approach and setting out how they might organise their separation should it ever become necessary.
One way of doing this is through the use of a pre-nuptial agreement (pre-nup). Rebecca Massam, family law expert at Warners Solicitors in Kent, explains the benefits of a pre-nuptial agreement.
A pre-nuptial agreement is a document agreed by a couple before their wedding, which sets out how their various assets would be shared if their marriage breaks down. Pre-nups are not binding in England and Wales, but the existence of such a document, if certain conditions are met regarding its creation, can be very persuasive to a court when dealing with marital assets upon divorce.
When a couple divorce without a pre-nup, the starting point is that everything held by either spouse will go into the “matrimonial pot” and then divided equally or based upon the needs of each person at the time of the separation. Entering into a pre-nup before getting married allows couples to discuss their views and express their wishes for how financial matters would be resolved in the event of a divorce. This can avoid lengthy and costly disputes arising in the future.
Pre-nups are particularly useful where one party might want to protect family wealth, whether this be the existence of a family business or a substantial inheritance. It may be that one party has children from a previous relationship they want to provide for or that this is a second marriage and the protection of a share of assets received in a previous divorce is required. Either way, giving some consideration to how you might best protect yourself and your family should divorce occur is becoming more commonplace in couples planning to marry. In many European countries, it is no more than a standard piece of wedding admin which is required before a marriage can go ahead.
Pre-nups should be specifically drafted to reflect your personal circumstances but could include clauses covering:
- what happens to a family business and any wealth derived from it;
- what happens to the family home and any other property you may own prior to or during the marriage;
- whether one spouse ought to retain inherited wealth;
- arrangements for the children and any maintenance issues;
- arrangements for pets; and
- the allocation of personal belongings, such as cars and furniture.
The pre-nuptial agreement must be freely entered into at least 28 days before the wedding- preferably more. Both parties to it must have had the time to fully understand the implications of the agreement and some disclosure of the prospective spouse’s financial positions must be provided to the other. It is essential that you take independent legal advice upon the contents of the agreement before you sign it, and your lawyer will need to counter-sign the document with you. The agreement will also need to take into account both parties’ needs and will need to be fair.
How can we help
The specialist family law solicitors at Warners have a wealth of experience in drawing up bespoke pre-nuptial agreements to fit the needs of particular couples. We will work alongside you to create a fair agreement whilst meeting all the conditions to establish a water-tight agreement.
For further information on prenuptial agreements or advice on any other family law matter, please contact Rebecca Massam on 01735 747900 or [email protected]. Warners Solicitors has offices in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, Kent.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.