When planning a marriage, there is a fear that discussion of a prenuptial agreement will create a lack of trust between you and your partner. While you don’t want to ever have to use it, a prenuptial agreement may prevent further damage should the relationship unfortunately break down.
What is a prenuptial agreement?
A prenuptial agreement is a document in which a couple set out their rights in relation to any property, debts, income and other assets purchased together or acquired individually (e.g. through inheritance), or that they have bought into the relationship.
Prenuptial agreements are now afforded considerable evidential weight within the UK Family Courts, unless considered to be unfair or not to meet the needs of the disadvantaged spouse.
Should I consider a prenuptial agreement?
Disagreements about money can be harmful for a relationship, particularly if you share different attitudes towards spending and saving. A prenuptial agreement provides clarity and peace of mind for both parties.
You might consider getting a prenuptial agreement for the following reasons;
- There are assets and/or property that would be difficult to split equally
- You and/or your partner have children from a previous relationship and want to ensure your assets are preserved for them and protect their inheritance rights
- You want to protect any inherited money or assets
- You want to safeguard substantial savings or expected future inheritance
- You want to set out how financial issues would be resolved in the event of a marriage breakdown
- Either partner owns a business which they would like to retain control of
Unless specifically excluded by agreement, once married, all of your assets can be treated as matrimonial assets and are available to be shared between you. If the marriage breaks down, these assets will generally be split equally between both parties unless the marriage is a short one or the court can meet the parties’ needs without recourse to assets acquired either before the marriage or inherited or gifted during the marriage. An agreement will make the parties’ intentions very clear and could save the time and cost of legal agreement about what assets should be included in the pot for division.
How to get a prenuptial agreement
Both parties must take independent legal advice. This avoids accusations further down the line that pressure was put on one party to sign the agreement. It also means that both parties can ensure that the party with the most to lose understands the nature and implications of the agreement they are about to sign.
Full disclosure of each party’s respective financial positions must be made prior to the agreement being prepared. Think carefully about the terms and make the agreement as precise, clear and detailed as possible. A schedule of each party’s financial circumstances is usually annexed to the agreement.
It is also worth deciding upon what would happen if your circumstances changed during the marriage. For example, if you are thinking of having children, loss of employment, inheritances, pension provision and the acquisition of further assets.
You should consider putting in reviews of the agreement at an agreed period during the marriage, as regular reviews make it more likely that a court will make financial orders in line with the terms agreed.
The sooner the terms of an agreement are signed the better. It is sensible to seek advice at least 6 months before any wedding. An agreement signed only days before a wedding takes place may have been signed under considerable pressure and its terms may not be upheld.