Pre-Nuptial Agreement – Should I have one?

Pre-nuptials seem to be making the headlines again. It has been reported that as Charlie Sheen marries for the fourth time, he has said that he will definitely be getting a ‘pre-nup, just in case’. However, pre-nuptial agreements are not just for film stars and the wealthy. They are also for those that have already been divorced and are looking to re-marry or perhaps those that are older and have accumulated wealth and assets after years of hard work. But pre-nuptial agreements have always been associated with those that have more assets/income than their future spouse and/or have inherited wealth from their parents or other family members, as was the case in Radmacher. Regardless of the sum of the parties total wealth/asset base, a pre-nuptial agreement can safeguard any assets whether large or small and it simply avoids a disagreement at a later stage as future disputes could become protracted and costly.

Legally-recognised ‘pre-nups’ as they are known are widely used in the US already. This is not the case in the UK yet. But it has been suggested that there are plans for a law to introduce prenuptial agreements for engaged couples. Although these changes in the law are unlikely to take place until after next year’s General Election.

A leading Roman Catholic cleric has warned that it would ‘shatter the traditional understanding that a marriage is for life’.

At present, pre-nuptial agreements are not legally binding, but following the Landmark case of 2010 where the Judges sitting at the Supreme Court ruled that German heiress Katrin Radmacher should keep her £1000 million fortune after her divorce in accordance with the terms of her pre-nuptial agreement, the English family courts are placing more weight on pre-nuptial agreements and as a result they are becoming popular as a way to avoid future legal cost in battling out the division of matrimonial assets once the marriage has broken down.

A pre-nuptial agreement is a written contract between two people who are about to get married or enter into a civil partnership. The document will set out the intentions of the parties in respect of their finances and any property etc. The terms must be reasonable and must not override the laws of the country. It must be noted that should you divorce or separate in the future, the courts have the power to override the terms of a pre-nuptial agreement and make their own decision as to how the matrimonial assets should be distributed between the parties.

Pre-nuptial agreements will be upheld by the court as long as they are fair and other necessary procedure has been correctly adhered to when drafting the documentation. They need to be entered into in the right way and make reasonable provision for both parties. A pre-nuptial agreement can provide good insight into the parties’ financial standing at the point of entry into a marriage/civil partnership. So if you are bringing assets into a marriage then you should consider having a pre-nuptial agreement.

If you have any questions surrounding any of the above issues then please contact our Matrimonial Solicitor, Satvinder Sokhal at Prince Evans Solicitors, Ealing on 020 8280 2710, or by e-mail ssokhal@prince-evans.co.uk

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