Despite Paul McCartney’s pronouncement that prenuptial (or premarital) agreements are unromantic, there are at least 5 good reasons to ignore this and go ahead.
As a couple, you can agree what will happen should you split up
The arguments that arise over finances during the course of a divorce are stressful and exhausting. If you end up in court, you are unlikely to achieve a settlement that either of you really want. If you can discuss and agree what will happen while your relationship is healthy and positive, and while you are communicating, you can potentially save yourself a lot of heartache if the worst happens and your relationship breaks down in the future.
Reduce acrimony – and the costs associated – with divorce
A prenuptial agreement won’t eliminate all the pain and all the costs of a divorce should it come to that. However, if you have agreed how to deal with your finances, you could significantly reduce the stress and expense that is usually associated with divorce.
Protect assets from previous relationships
Our relationships are more complex than ever, and many people enter into 2 or even 3 marriages during the course of a life. Where property and assets are the result of your efforts as an individual, or from a previous marriage, you may not want these to form part of the marital pot in your new relationship. This is also an important point to consider if you have children from previous relationships who need to be provided for. A prenuptial agreement can, quite sensibly, set the boundaries around different pots of assets and property, defining which can form part of the assets of the new relationship, and which should stay out.
A prenuptial agreement encourages openness around finances
Many people who have been through a relationship breakdown will count disagreement and lack of openness around financial matters as one of the reasons –if not the main reason – for the problems that led to divorce. By discussing these issues before you marry, you will have the opportunity to establish what each of you expects in terms of finances – whether you are happy to share, or wish to keep assets separate. It may be that your partner’s approach to finances, as revealed in these discussions, prompts you to think again about the relationship – but far better to iron out issues before you commit to marriage.
Open the way to your future relationship
In some cases, couples part and never have any contact again. In other cases, especially where children are involved, your divorce just means your relationship moves into a different gear. You are no longer life partners, but you share your children, and will want to do the best for them. This is going to be significantly improved if you can avoid (as far as possible) an acrimonious divorce. Dealing with complex issues in advance can help with this. And despite what some critics suggest, it does not make divorce inevitable – it just means you have a plan in place if it does happen.
While the legal status of prenuptial agreements is still not quite set in stone, the courts will increasingly look at what has been agreed between a couple as a starting point for considering the division of assets. The Law Commission has made recommendations about prenuptial agreements. Provided these are followed, the courts are likely to use the agreement as the basis for any decision. The recommendations include the following:
- The agreement is a contract and made by deed
- No undue influence has been exerted on either party
- Each party should receive independent legal advice
- There should be a full and frank exchange of financial documentation
- The agreement should be signed more than 28 days before the date of the wedding.
So long as there have been no significant changes since the agreement was created, or there are no exceptional circumstances in play, the courts are far less likely to deviate from a properly prepared prenuptial agreement .
As outlined above, the court needs to be satisfied that both parties to the prenuptial agreement have entered into it freely, and that both fully understand the implications of the agreement. It is essential to work with an experienced solicitor to draw up your prenuptial agreement if you want it to be enforceable later on should the need arise.