A prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into by a couple prior to marriage. In it they set out how their property will be divided in the event of them divorcing or separating.
Prenuptial agreements have historically been relatively uncommon in the UK; however they are likely to become more common in the future as the courts pay more attention to them.
Prenuptial agreements are often sought where one partner has substantial wealth prior to the marriage, and seeks to protect that wealth in the event of the marriage failing. In some cases they are entered into to protect existing family assets in the shape of future inheritance.
For example, if a family has substantial wealth which has been passed down for generations and one partner has a reasonable expectation of inheriting that wealth during the marriage, they may seek to protect that wealth by having a prenuptial agreement drawn up.
Prenuptial agreements are also used for 2nd and 3rd marriages to protect and preserve assets accrued by one party from his or her former marriage and to ensure suitable provision is set aside for children from that former marriage (whether still dependent or not).
Are Prenuptial Agreements legally binding in the UK?
Prenuptial agreements are not legally binding in the UK at present. Recent case law, however, shows that they are being upheld in many instances as long as certain safeguards have been met.
The safeguards are:
- The husband and the wife both received independent legal advice about the agreement.
- Neither party was under pressure or duress to sign the agreement.
- Full and frank financial disclosure of both parties’ assets was made prior to the agreement.
- The agreement should be fair and realistic. If the division of assets is weighted heavily in the favour of one party, it may be judged to be unfair by the courts.
- There has been no significant change which would make the agreement inappropriate (for example, the birth of a child or children).
It is likely that prenuptial agreements will become more common in the UK and that the courts are increasingly likely to take them into account in the future.
If you would like more information on entering into a prenuptial agreement, contact us to speak to one of our experienced family solicitors.
Our team of family solicitors comprises Resolution Accredited Specialists, Collaboratively trained lawyers and members of the Law Society's Children Panel.