Being newly engaged can be one of the most romantic times of your life and no doubt the last thing that you will want to think about is you and your partner separating in the future. 

When planning a marriage, there is a seemingly endless list of things to think about, from choosing a date and venue to deciding on the guest list and so on. Now, more and more people are drawing up a pre-nuptial agreement (also known as a pre-nup) to add to that list.  

“Raising this topic with your partner may seem daunting at first but in recent years, pre-nups have become much more widely known and talked about; these are not just agreements for Hollywood stars but everyone who wishes to plan for their future,” says Nirali Adhia, a family and divorce lawyer from Debenhams Ottaway Solicitors in Hertfordshire. 

Below, Nirali explains how pre-nups work and why you should consider getting one before your wedding. 

Q: What is a pre-nup?

A: A pre-nup is a contract entered into by a couple, which sets out the assets that are held by them either in their sole names, together or jointly with a third party and how these will be divided if they were to divorce.   

Pre-nups are similar to car and home insurance in that they are a form of security for couples if their marriage was to breakdown in the future. 

When entering into a pre-nup, each party must get independent legal advice and the agreement must be fair and meet both parties’ needs. Both sides will also be required to make full financial disclosure of their assets. The document must also be signed in good time before the marriage

Q: Is a pre-nup legally binding?

A: A pre-nup is not binding, which means the court does not have to uphold it. The judge will look at whether the contract is fair and by abiding by the terms of it, if both parties and any children’s needs will be met; for example, whether each party will be able to find suitable accommodation and meet their outgoings from their income. 

Q: When should I get a pre-nup? 

Great British Life: When entering into a pre-nup, each party must get independent legal advice and the agreement must be fair and meet both parties’ needsWhen entering into a pre-nup, each party must get independent legal advice and the agreement must be fair and meet both parties’ needs (Image: Getty Images)

A: If you are considering getting a pre-nup, then this is something that you should raise with your partner as early as you can. This will allow you both plenty of time to discuss matters and get the pre-nup put in place before your marriage. 

As the date of the wedding gets closer, it is easy to put this unromantic document at the bottom of your to-do list. There is Law Commission guidance that such agreements should be signed at least a month before the date of the wedding. This is so that if a couple does separate, it is more difficult for one to argue that they felt pressurised into signing it due to the stresses of the wedding. 

If you find that time is running out, then you can consider entering into a post-nuptial agreement. This is signed after marriage but offers the same protection as a pre-nup and is upheld in a similar way. 

If you are a couple living together but are not married, you can have a co-habitation agreement. This is a document which sets out how the assets are to be split and is designed to provide clarity and protect you from having to go through lengthy court proceedings if you separate. It should be noted that the legislation dealing with financial matters following the breakdown of a relationship of unmarried couples is very different and you should seek legal advice. 

Q: What things should I consider including in my pre-nup?

A: Although each couple’s assets are different, these are some of the key issues likely to be dealt with in a pre-nup:

  • The ownership of property brought into the marriage and the family home;
  • Savings held by the parties in their own accounts and joint accounts; 
  • Business investments; 
  • Furniture and furnishings in the home/chattels;
  • Ownership of pets (a pet-nup can also be considered);
  • Inheritance already received and future inheritance;
  • Any debt occurred by the parties individually or together. 

Q: What are the benefits of entering into a pre-nup?

Great British Life: Nirali Adhia is a family and divorce lawyer from Debenhams Ottaway SolicitorsNirali Adhia is a family and divorce lawyer from Debenhams Ottaway Solicitors (Image: Debenhams Ottaway)

A: One of the main advantages is that it ensures you and your partner are fully aware of each other’s financial circumstances from the beginning, which some people can find hard to discuss. 

By signing a pre-nup, you can make it clear to one another that certain property you bring into the marriage belongs to just you and will not be shared in the future. It can also protect an inheritance you might be receiving in the future and provide financial security if there are children or grandchildren from any previous relationships or marriages that need to be provided for.

If you and your partner agree how the assets will be split on divorce, then the separation can be more amicable, and it saves you having to deal with legal fees and lengthy financial settlement proceedings.

Any business interests can also be protected by the pre-nup so the company does not become a point of dispute involving the other shareholders.  

Q: Do I need to review my pre-nup? 

A: Yes, it is important that you review your pre-nup every few years and especially if your circumstances change, such as losing your job, having children or becoming ill. These events are likely to have an impact on your financial circumstances and what you may need in the future if you were to separate. 

Q: How can Debenhams Ottaway help?

A: At Debenhams Ottaway, our team of family lawyers understand how difficult it can be to discuss the possibility of a relationship breakdown. We have lots of experience drafting pre- and post-nups for couples and offer friendly and sympathetic advice throughout the process.  

We aim to take away any stress and provide peace of mind for couples so they can start married life together feeling content and reassured.

For more information please contact Nirali Adhia on 01727 738213 or email