Pre-nups now more popular – and not just with the rich
Pre-nup agreements are often associated with the rich but they are now being used by couples from all walks of life.
They are particularly popular with people entering second marriages who want to safeguard their assets for their children from a previous relationship. People who have inherited money or perhaps been awarded compensation for an injury or employment claim are also using pre-nups to protect their interests.
Some law firms throughout England and Wales have reported that inquiries about marital agreements have risen by as much as 50% over the last 12 months.
It’s thought the reason for the increase is likely to be a growing confidence that such agreements will be fully effective in the event of a marriage breakdown. Pre-nups are not legally binding in this country although there has been a growing trend for courts to apply them unless there are compelling reasons against doing so. Generally, the courts now only overturn a pre-nup if it is deemed unfair or if one party was pressurised into signing it against their will.
The backing of official bodies like the Law Commission have also given people confidence that pre-nup agreements are here to stay and will be taken seriously.
The commission has called for new legislation to formalise the new status that the pre-nup has been given by the courts. It has recommended a ‘qualifying nuptial agreement’ which would enable a couple to decide how to divide their assets, before or during their marriage, in the event that they divorce. As long as legal requirements are met they would be binding in the court.
One other possible reason for the increased interest in marital agreements is that people are becoming more pragmatic in their attitude to marriage. There is a growing acceptance that relationships can break down and that if that happens, a pre-nup can help to reduce much of the stress and heartache of reaching a financial settlement that is fair to both sides.