Society has witnessed a big change in couples' attitudes towards their finances, and more and more newlyweds are now seeking to gain a prenuptial agreement as part of their 'happily ever after' plans.
Couples in the UK now spend an estimated £10 billion on weddings each year, typically parting with a little over £36,000 overall, including everything from the engagement right through to the honeymoon.
We look at some of the most frequently asked questions relating to prenuptial and pre-civil agreements.
A prenuptial can be defined as a contract entered into by two people who are about to marry setting out the terms of possession of their assets and determine the ownership of property, whether owned prior to the marriage or acquired after the marriage in the event that marriage is later dissolved.
The content of a prenuptial agreement can vary greatly to reflect individual's needs; commonly they include provisions for the division of property and spousal support in the event of a possible divorce or breakup of the marriage. They may also include terms for the forfeiture of certain assets as a result of divorce on the grounds of adultery and conditions of guardianship.
Prenuptial agreements are now being given more recognition by the English Courts and are proving popular amongst wealthy couples.
The reason for the Courts' new approach to nuptial agreements is a recent high profile case; the House of Lords Judgement on Radmacher v Granatino decided that prenuptial agreements are now presumed binding unless unfair.
Ms Radmacher left the marriage with her £100m fortune intact and the husband was left with virtually nothing. This may seem unfair, but Mr Granatino was a French National and his former wife German. He signed the prenuptial agreement in Germany and these were not matrimonial assets acquired by them both - it was the wife's family fortune. It therefore could not be considered fair for Mr Granatino to benefit in England when he would not do so either in France or Germany, where the prenuptial agreement would be legally binding.
The House of Lords used this case as an opportunity to develop and interpret the law regarding prenuptial agreements which was long awaited. However, it is still to be seen whether Parliament will go so far as to change the law so that all prenuptial agreements are binding despite being fair or not.
A prenuptial agreement should be considered from a client's point of view as an insurance policy and are available for people's own peace of mind and security.
To ensure that prenuptial agreements continue to remain fair during the course of the marriage, it is also advisable for a post-nuptial agreement to be entered into. This can particularly deal with changes in circumstances that might render the prenuptial agreement unfair and in which case the post-nuptial agreement will be essential. The safest option is to have both.
It is recommended to seek assistance from expert marriage lawyers who can support clients who wish to protect their inherited wealth or assets acquired prior to the marriage. In order to ensure that these are prepared with fairness in mind, a team of solicitors can advise on the best way forward for it to be upheld in the event of divorce.
It is widely recommended that prenuptial and pre-civil partnership agreements should be regularly reviewed, such as every five years, as well as when there are any significant changes within the relationship, such as the birth of a child or a major change in assets.
Whilst partnership agreements can be prepared to provide for long periods and the birth of children they are likely to have a reduced chance of being upheld by the courts upon a separation or divorce. A partnership agreement cannot be allowed to prejudice the rights and reasonable requirements of children within the family.
The longer the partnership has lasted, the more likely it may be that it would be unfair to hold the parties to an agreement which had been entered into when contemplating an unforeseen future.
It is, therefore, advisable to enter into a post-civil partnership agreement when the couple has been in their civil partnership for some years, if and when the couple review the agreement.
If you are currently arranging a wedding and would like more legal advice on prenuptial or pre-civil partnership agreements, Pinney Talfourd are here to help. We have an experienced and dedicated team of specialist family lawyers based in our offices in Essex and London.
We have evening and weekend appointments available and offer a free initial 30-minute consultation for all new family law enquiries. You can book your free initial family consultation using our online booking form or by calling your local office. This half hour appointment will allow you to explain the situation with an expert lawyer and discuss the best steps to minimise stress and delays.