Interestingly, though, the divorce numbers have been reducing, largely because more couples are choosing not to marry. The 2013 statistics point to a drop of roughly 3% in divorces compared to 2012 and fall of more than a quarter by comparison to 2003. Nevertheless, 32% of marriages occurring in 1998 had ended in divorce by 2013.
Statistics are all very well, of course, and the job of our firm’s Family Law Department is to treat every case individually, whichever spouse we are asked to represent. Divorce is often a stressful and emotional experience, which can make it all the more difficult for a couple to resolve their differences over finances and any children involved.
One way in which increasing numbers of couples are avoiding prolonged wrangles in the event of separation and divorce is through what is called a prenuptial agreement. This can be drafted by a solicitor and entered into amicably in advance of tying the knot, without any particular inference that the marriage will not last ‘till death…’.
You do not have to be a wealthy celebrity to have a ‘prenup’. It can help in various circumstances, particularly as couples are marrying or remarrying later than in the past and may have acquired obligations and assets that could become more complicated in the event of an acrimonious divorce.
With a prenup in place, both partners will know where they would stand following a future split. It enables agreement, if there is good reason, to a division of assets that may be some way from the 50/50 start point often seen in divorce cases. This could bring mutual peace of mind that, who knows, could even contribute to marital harmony.
The courts were originally slow to recognise a prenup but now, provided that it has been correctly drawn up, with the benefit of legal advice and full disclosure and is not unfair, it is likely to be taken substantially into account in a divorce settlement. To make clear that your prenup has been given careful thought without pressure, it is best completed some weeks or months before the wedding.
A prenup may also be entered into ahead of a civil partnership ceremony. It is even possible to make a similar agreement after you are married, in which case it is a postnuptial agreement, or postnup. Couples not formalising their relationship in either way should consider the protection offered by a cohabitation agreement.