Legal advice: to prenup or not to prenup?

A prenuptial should be put in place months before the big day so as not to spoil the build up

A prenuptial should be put in place months before the big day so as not to spoil the build up - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Putting financial matters in black and white should a marriage end is not the most romantic thing to consider among the honeymoon, dress and venue choosing, but a prenuptial arrangement will give piece of mind just in case, says family law expert Marilyn Bell of SA Law, St Albans

Prenuptial agreements are still a sticky subject for soon-to-be-marrieds. You’ve fixed the date, booked the venue, taste-tested the catering and selected the wedding list. Suddenly, one partner suggests a prenup. Ouch!

It’s fair to say that public opinion is divided about prenups. Many couples see them as romance killers, associated with planning for a life apart rather than a life together. There is also the question of their usefulness under English law. In England, unlike many other countries, they are not treated as legally binding. However, this doesn’t take into account their wider value, and there are many vocal proponents that suggest prenups are simply a commonsense way to approach a relationship. And this doesn’t just apply to celebrities and sports professionals, because those with much more modest means can also benefit.

Here’s a good example. A couple who are both in their early thirties are marrying. Anna the bride already owns a flat, thanks to her parents who helped with a deposit. With the rising property market, she now has more than £150,000 of equity in her accommodation. In contrast, Charles the groom has yet to purchase a property and hasn’t had the opportunity to build an equivalent savings base.

In a few years, the flat will probably have been sold and the proceeds used to buy a larger matrimonial home in joint names. If the couple do separate, the house will be in the matrimonial pot with a starting point of equal division. A prenup could simply provide that if they separate, £150,000 would go to Anna and anything over and above that will be divided.

Prenups help couples to set out the true nature of each partner’s financial input and how they would like that treated if they decide to part. Although the actual outcome of a court’s decision will depend on many other factors, if Anna and Charles do decide to draw up a prenup, there could be a much greater chance of Anna retaining her £150,000.

Prenups shouldn’t be seen as a shadow of doom over a relationship. That said, it’s best to consider them a good six months before the big day. That way, they don’t get in the way of the much more exciting wedding planning!

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