What is a pre-nuptial agreement?
A pre-nuptial agreement is a contract entered into by a couple about to get married or enter into a civil partnership, which sets out what they would like to happen with their finances in the event that the relationship breaks down.
It is also possible to enter into a post-nuptial agreement any point after a marriage or civil partnership has taken place. The same considerations apply to both pre and post-nuptial agreements.
It is not, at this time, possible to enter into a binding agreement which prevents the court from making such financial orders as it considers fair at the time. However in the right circumstances, the court can give decisive weight to a pre-nuptial agreement, when deciding how a couples’ finances should be divided upon their separation.
What are the benefits?
A dispute in court can lead to an uncertain outcome and the costs, both emotional and financial, may be substantial.
Many couples with a pre-nuptial agreement may be able to resolve the issues arising from their separation without involving the court at all. They may be better placed to deal with the issues arising from the breakdown of their relationship quickly, and cost effectively, and this can reduce stress at a difficult time.
Is it right for me?
While anyone with significant wealth entering into a marriage would be well advised to consider entering into a pre-nuptial agreement, they are no longer the preserve of the rich and famous. Pre-nuptial agreements are being used increasingly by couples with a more modest financial outlook who would like some financial predictability were their relationship to breakdown. Some examples of where a pre-nuptial agreement may be useful are:
- where you or your partner own a property or other asset of financial value prior to the marriage, which you want to protect
- where you or your partner have received an inheritance before the marriage, or expect to receive one in the future
- if you or your partner have set up or are in the process of setting up a business
- if you or your partner are entering into a second or later in life marriage, and have a greater amount of personal wealth, which you are keen to protect, or have children from a previous relationship or divorce whose inheritance prospects you wish to protect
- if you or your partner have already gone through a divorce, and are alive to the emotional and financial cost of legal proceedings after separation and wish to take steps to minimise this (‘once bitten, twice shy’)
- if you or your partner have assets abroad or connections with another country, and want to achieve some consistency as to what will happen in the event of a breakdown of your marriage
How can we help?
We have considerable experience in advising a broad mix of clients on pre and post-nuptial agreements, from mid-income clients and those with local connections to high net worth individuals or those with international ties.
We have a number of collaborative lawyers within our family team, and you may also want to consider the collaborative process as an alternative to solicitor-led negotiations in finalising the terms of any pre or post-nuptial agreement.
The wider firm can provide advice on all areas connected to pre and post-nuptial agreements, including trusts, inheritance, tax, conveyancing, French property and general company and commercial services.
If you would like to speak with a member of the team you can contact our family law solicitors on 020 3826 7550 or complete our enquiry form.