There are many misconceptions and myths about pre-nups so we decided to get some clarification from the legal team. Amanda Owens, head of the family law team at Steeles Law Solicitors, separates the myth from the fact when it comes to pre-nuptial agreements.
Myth 1: Pre-nuptial agreements are “an American thing” and not relevant for couples living in the UK.
Most of us will have heard about “pre-nups” in the context of American films, television programmes and even the odd song! It is certainly true that pre-nuptial agreements are more commonplace in the US, with an estimated 5-10% of couples entering into them.
Whilst there are no comparative figures available for the UK, online research suggests that up to half of British couples believe that pre-nuptial agreements are worthwhile. This was backed up by the Law Commission’s recommendation, in 2014, that pre-nuptial agreements should be legally binding in divorce settlements, after the needs of the separating couple and any children have been taken into account.
So the truth is that pre-nuptial agreements should be considered by couples looking to get married on both sides of the pond.
Myth 2: Pre-nuptial agreements are only worthwhile for celebrities and the super-rich.
We’ve all heard the headline grabbing reports of celebrities fighting over their millions – and even their pets – but are pre-nuptial agreements really necessary for us mere mortals? Is there any point in paying for one unless you have millions in the bank to protect?
The truth is that in this day and age, many of us are “asset rich”. With increasing property prices and the average age for first time marriages going up, we may well find that we have more to protect financially than we think.
More of us are having children before walking down the aisle, so it is not just our own interests we are looking after – can we really expect our spouse to provide for children from a previous relationship if the worst happens?
Getting a pre-nuptial agreement drawn up requires time and the financial investment that goes along with this. They will therefore not be for everybody but if, for example, you own more than one property, have business interests, stand to inherit money or property from family, have significantly more assets than the person you are marrying, or are getting married for the second time, it is a worthwhile and sensible consideration.
Myth 3: Pre-nuptial agreements are not legally binding so there’s no point in having one.
It is true to state that pre-nuptial agreements are not automatically legally binding in the UK, but since the 2010 landmark case of heiress Katrin Radmacher, who successfully used a pre-nuptial agreement to protect her 106 million fortune, British courts have the power to recognise pre-nuptial agreements as enforceable under UK divorce law.
The courts are increasingly giving decisive weight to pre-nuptial agreements, provided that certain conditions are met and also if the agreement is considered to be fair. This includes the proviso that both parties must have sought independent legal advice before making any agreement. So, in short, the court will uphold pre-nuptial agreements where such criteria have been met.
Myth 4: I’m already married, so it is too late for me to get a pre-nuptial agreement drawn up.
Whilst we would generally recommend that pre-nuptial agreements are considered at least six months before your big day, it is possible to draft a pre-nuptial agreement after the big day – known as a post-nuptial agreement.
Myth 5: A pre-nuptial agreement is unromantic and not something you should bring up when planning a wedding.
There are many enjoyable and romantic aspects of planning your wedding and then there are the more practical, yet equally important considerations – for example, wedding insurance and budgeting. We believe that pre-nuptial agreements are an equally important tick box in this practical to do list.
We hope that you found this article helpful and if you feel that you could benefit from having a chat with a legal specialist about your circumstances – do consider Steeles Law – they have two Norfolk branches in Norwich and Diss.