A pre-nuptial agreement is a special document signed by a couple prior to their marriage, which sets out how their finances should be dealt with in the unlikely event of their divorce. While pre-nuptial agreements continue to get bad press for their perceived “unromantic” nature, they actually make good financial sense. Think of them as an insurance policy, just as you’d take out contents insurance when moving into a new home.

Although pre-nuptial agreements are not legally binding in England, judges are expected to give them decisive weight if they believe it is fair to both parties to do so. This may change if the couple’s circumstances have altered significantly since the signing of the agreement (for example, if the couple now has children whose needs must be prioritised).

Since a high-profile Supreme Court case in 2010 set a precedent for Courts attaching more substantial weight to properly prepared pre-nuptial agreements during divorce proceedings, these documents are becoming increasingly popular in this country. They especially make sense if the partners separately own substantial wealth or assets prior to their marriage, particularly if these form part of a family inheritance.

The Court’s duty during divorce proceedings is to decide on the fairest solution for both parties, having weighed up all of the various aspects in need of consideration. It should therefore be noted that the treatment of pre-nuptial agreements during financial proceedings can vary from case to case.

However, there are things that couples can do to ensure their pre-nuptial agreement is accorded decisive weight in Court in the event of their separation. For example, both parties should consult an independent Family Law solicitor, who will provide expert advice and assist them in drawing up the agreement. Each partner is also expected to make a full and frank disclosure of all of their wealth and assets, and the agreement must be considered as fair to the needs of both parties. Finally, the agreement should be signed at least six weeks before the date of marriage.

As private wealth specialists, the Family Law team at Attwaters Jameson Hill has considerable expertise in all matters relating to pre-nuptial agreements, particularly where substantial wealth and assets are involved. We’ll work with you to ensure the final agreement has the best chance of being upheld in Court in the unlikely event of a marriage breakdown – just in case.

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