A pre-nup agreement might seem thoroughly unromantic – both Prince William and Prince Harry refused one for their royal marriages. However, as more than 100,000 couples get divorced in the UK each year, perhaps it’s not such a bad idea. We’ll take you through the pros and cons of pre-nuptial agreements and help you decide whether or not to sign one.
- What is a pre-nuptial agreement?
- How do you get a pre-nuptial agreement?
- Pros and cons of a pre-nup
- Factors to consider if you decide to sign one
- Should you sign a pre-nuptial agreement?
- Celebrity losses from not having a pre-nup
In the USA ‘pre-nups’ are far more common than in the UK, but then they are also legally recognised. Britain’s pre-marital agreements are not legally binding but, with the number of divorces increasing, they are often used as a basis for a settlement.
In fact, the government confirmed in 2011 and 2012 that they were extending their research – not least because of the potential cut in Legal Aid. That would put Britain more in line with the rest of Europe, where pre-nups have been widely recognised for some years.
Right now, a pre-nup could prove pivotal to a court when a divorcing couple is discussing who promised what to whom. Usually though, this is only when the marriage has been comparatively short and there are no children involved.
In 2009, a landmark case made the courts take pre-nups far more seriously than before.
Katrin Radmacher and Nicolas Granatino were married for eight years before they separated. They had two children together. Miss Radmacher came from a very wealthy German family and had personal wealth of around £100m. They had a pre-nuptial agreement saying that they should each go their separate ways on divorce.
In the first set of court proceedings, Mr Granatino was awarded around £5.5m. However, an appeal court slashed this award dramatically, allowing Mr Granatino only around £1m plus an additional sum for housing of £2.25m.
In fact, neither court felt that Mr Granatino should be awarded nothing, despite him having signed the contract prior to the marriage confirming this. So, the pre-nup wasn’t completely binding, but it made a difference to the divorce outcome.
Firstly, you both need to speak to your own solicitors. Family law firms are the most capable solicitors to create one of these agreements. Contact the Law Society if you would like a list of practitioners in your area.
There are guidelines (set out in 1998) as to what should be in the agreement and the terms of drawing one up. These include:
- Children receive provision
- Both parties should have taken independent legal advice
- The agreement must not be profoundly unjust
- Full financial disclosure
- The agreement is drawn up at least 21 days prior to the marriage
Obviously, both parties need to sign the agreement and the signatures should be witnessed.
- A pre-nup records what each person brings to the marriage. Upon divorce, you have a reference point.
- It can raise ‘debatable’ issues like the education of any children.
- It can offer mental stability for both parties, particularly if one or both is particularly wealthy before marriage.
- They can provide comfort for in-laws!
- It can reduce the time and cost involved in divorce cases.
- The biggest problem is that it challenges the idea of living ‘happily ever after’, which can be stressful for everyone involved. Signing a pre-nup can make someone question whether the person they are to marry is really committed.
- It can be a complex and costly process to put together.
- British courts don’t truly recognise them.
Pre-nups could be essential if you’re about to enter a second marriage (which have an even higher divorce rate than first marriages) and want to safeguard inherited family money, your business, or your children from a previous relationship.
Reasons to consider a pre-nuptial agreement
- Is one partner much wealthier than the other?
- What assets and debts does each partner bring to the relationship?
- Has each partner fully disclosed their financial position?
- Do you have children/dependants to make provisions for?
- Have both parties had independent financial advice?
- Have you addressed past, present and future earnings/earning power?
- Has your future partner got a lot more money than you? If so, try to avoid signing!
Ultimately, it’s a personal decision. Like drafting a will, drawing up a pre-nup might not be the most pleasant of tasks – but both are practical measures that can ensure peace of mind, and ensure your assets are allocated in a fair and considered way. A prenuptial agreement can protect wealthy spouses, or those who are weaker financially. It all depends on your individual pre-nup.
On a side note: if you do decide to get a pre-nup, it will involve both you and your partner going through all the assets and sources of income you both have. If nothing else, this process will help you plan your financial future more effectively!
Around two in five marriages end in divorce in the UK (twice as many co-habitations fall apart). It can be messy and expensive when it does happen, particularly if the marriage only happened for financial reasons.
If pre-nups were mandatory and binding, it would remove any controversy and ill-feeling, and make things a lot easier if there was a split.
The more money you have, the more important it is to have a pre-nup. The process of divorce becomes a lot more complicated when the couple’s net worth is in the stratosphere.
Here are the largest divorce settlements:
1. $1.7bn: Rupert and Anna Murdoch (1999)
2. $750m: Bernie and Slavica Ecclestone (2009)
2. $750m: Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren (2010)
4. $425m: Mel Gibson and Robyn Moore (2011)
5. $300m: Roman and Irina Abramovich (2007)
6. $168m: Michael and Juanita Vanoy Jordan (2006)
7. $150m: Neil Diamond and Marcia Murphey (1994)
8. $100m: Steven Spielberg and Amy Irving (1989)
9. $90m: Madonna and Guy Ritchie (2008)
10. $85m: Harrison Ford and Melissa Mathison (2004
Is a divorce affecting your life?
Do you have advice for anyone considering tying the knot?
Tell us in the comments below!