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What is a pre-nup?

Posted: Wednesday March 05, 2014

What is a pre-nuptial agreement?

There’s been lots of talk in the media this week about pre-nups as the Law Commission has drafted a Bill which, if implemented, would bring legally recognised pre-nuptial agreements into effect.

So what is a pre-nup and what does the law say about them at the moment?

A pre-nuptial agreement is a contract that is entered into between a couple before they are married, outlining how assets, wealth and other items, including pets, will be divided up in the result of the breakdown of the marriage.  

For many, the concept of a pre-nup goes completely against what they believe marriage to be about.  They believe by signing a pre-nup you think your marriage is destined to fail, even before it’s begun.  For others, especially those who have been through a messy divorce previously or have children from previous marriages, it’s a way of protecting their assets should the worse happen.  It reduces the chances of losing assets or property that were in existence before the marriage if things do go wrong. 

However what many people don’t realise is while pre-nups are taken into consideration by judges during divorce proceedings in the UK, they can be overturned if the judge views the pre-nup as unfair on one side.   In fact, there was a high profile case as recent as February 2014 where a judge overruled a pre-nuptial agreement in divorce proceedings http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/mar/01/judge-overrides-prenup-bob-the-builder-divorce. 

If you are thinking about entering a pre-nup before marriage, what should you do? 

• Always consult an experienced solicitor to ensure the pre-nup is compliant with UK law
• Make sure you and your partner seek independent legal advice, using separate solicitors to ensure you avoid claims that either party was acting involuntarily
• The pre-nup should be entered into by both parties freely and knowingly.  Make sure you talk to your partner and you bother understand the agreement and agree to it voluntarily
• You should sign the pre-nup at least three weeks before you get married to avoid claims that it was rushed or done under pressure.  
• You must fully disclose all of your assets and property.

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