Pam Douglas is a solicitor with local firm Wainwright & Cummins. Each month, she takes a common enquiry and asks colleagues to answer it for readers
I expect everyone’s heard that there’s going to be another royal wedding next year following Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s recent announcement. But did you also know that there’s been a lot of discussion about whether the lovebirds should have a pre-nup (prenuptial agreement)? I spoke to my colleague Linda Sylvanus from our family law team and she explained what a pre-nup is and why you don’t need to be a prince or a princess, or even wealthy, to consider getting one.
A prenuptial agreement is entered into before marriage and is an agreement between a couple stating how their assets would be divided in the unfortunate event of a relationship breakdown – rather than leaving the Courts to decide.
The normal rule of thumb is that assets should be divided equally, at least as a starting point. But in cases where a couple have not contributed equally, this might not always seem fair. So an agreement before marriage can be drawn up to minimise the risk that either of the parties might end up worse off or lose assets that they obtained before the relationship began.
Pre-nups are not currently legally binding in the UK, although they increasingly carry weight in court and recently, Baroness Hale, president of the Supreme Court, called for a shake-up of divorce law which would give them proper legal status.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the divorce rate in England and Wales has increased for the first time since 2010 and now stands at 42%.
Interestingly, recent figures also show that the majority of people getting divorced are in their 30s (women) and 40s (men) and a significant proportion of them go on to marry for a second time.
These second-timers and older couples often bring into relationships assets which they have worked hard to acquire, and want to protect. But whether couples are getting married for the first or second time, and at whatever age, a prenuptial agreement can assuage insecurities by providing some future financial certainty.
For many, the idea that a couple in love preparing for marriage should contemplate entering into a pre-nup might seem desperately unromantic.
Some might even suggest that discussing a pre-nup is an indication that the relationship is already on rocky ground. But, arguably, nothing says; “I love you” like a promise not to go after your partner’s cherished belongings or a promise to ensure that your partner is financially provided for.
Perhaps having such an agreement could actually lead to a healthier and stronger marriage by removing potential causes of anxiety. If you are not planning to get married, but are about to live with your partner, you can also protect yourself by entering into what is known as a “cohabitation agreement”, which operates in a very similar way. If you would like to discuss pre-nups, cohabitation agreements or would like help with this issue or any other, please feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.