Pre-nuptial agreements: now worth the paper they are written on?

Pre-nuptial agreements setting out what will happen to a couple's assets if they divorce are common in many countries and are growing in popularity in England and Wales.

Pre-nuptial agreements setting out what will happen to a couple’s assets if they divorce are common in many countries and are growing in popularity in England and Wales. Although not legally binding here, they are increasingly influential in the right circumstances.

When deciding how to divide resources on divorce, English judges have historically attached little weight to pre-nuptial agreements because the law gives them a wide discretion to achieve a result that is fair in a family’s particular circumstances. However, this has changed over recent years and continues to do so as courts increasingly allow properly informed couples a greater autonomy over their futures.

Pre-nuptial agreements need not be the preserve of the super-rich. Once there are assets or potential assets which exceed basic needs, a pre-nuptial agreement can be a useful way of securing family wealth. For those wanting their wishes to be up held on divorce rather than being subjected to the vagaries of a discretionary system, a pre-nuptial agreement is worthy of consideration.

Pre nuptial agreements are particularly relevant:

a. Where there is family or inherited wealth, for example, in the form of shares in a family business;

b. Where there is a significant imbalance in the assets and wealth brought to the marriage;

Most Read

c. Where the marriage includes a foreign national, particularly from an EU country. In many other countries such agreements are legally enforceable and this may well positively affect the impact of such an agreement in this jurisdiction;

d. For those entering second marriages where they wish to ‘ring fence’ assets acquired in previous relationships and/or ensure that wealth can be passed onto the children from those relationships.

With the Law Commission shortly to make recommendations about the enforceability of pre-nuptial agreements, watch this space for continuing developments in the ability of couples to order their own financial affairs.

Emma CollinsPartner Weightmans LLPT: 01565 634234 / 0161 233 7330E: emma.collins@weightmans.comW:

Solicitors’ comments...

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Katrin Radmacher and Nicholas Granatino in 2010, everyone who plans to marry should have a pre-marital agreement, and everyone who is already married should have a post-marital agreement (the same thing, entered into after marriage); simple as that. Having such an agreement in place means discussing difficult issues – which can strengthen relationships or identify fundamental differences before it is too late. And when things get difficult – as happens to everyone at some time or other – you can focus on working through those difficulties rather than worrying about what might happen. There are other benefits too for both the person who is financially stronger, and also for their spouse.

For more information contact, @AlisonBullMcr, DDI 0161 235 5424,

Although it isn’t the most romantic of presents, a pre-nuptial agreement is a gift which will stand the test of time even if the relationship doesn’t! More and more parents (and grandparents) of wide-eyed couples rushing to the altar are choosing to pay for the services of a lawyer to ensure that the family fortune is preserved whatever the future holds. It may be unpalatable now, but it is a serious consideration for any couple getting married….and it does bring the trust in the relationship to the fore at an early stage: Pre-nuptial agreements must be fair or courts have the power to ignore them: this means both bride and groom being honest with one another from the very start, revealing their assets and wealth to each other, so that the agreement becomes a proper and true expression of their wishes as to how such wealth would be divided in the event of a breakdown of the marriage. Far from undermining the concept of marriage, such an agreement is a sensible and practical start to married life.

Arlene Milne, Cobden House Chambers, www.cobdendirect.comTel: 0161 833 6000

Pre-nuptial agreements are now worthy of consideration in the circumstances outlined. However, it is imperative that the legal process is started well in advance of the marriage and not within a couple of months of the intended nuptials.

Darlene Storrar, Head of Family Law, Storrar Cowdry SolicitorsIndia House, 21 Castle Street,Chester CH1 2DS.Tel 01244 400567

Pre-marriage agreements are now incredibly important to anyone considering marriage. Having acted in one of the most prominent agreements of 2011, the Family Team at Laytons know the importance of a properly drafted agreement. You should be wary of the pitfalls of poor advice which can devastate your future financial landscape. Expert advice is therefore essential.

Emma Gill, Associate Partner,Family Department, Laytons, 22 St John Street, Manchester, M3 4EB.Tel: O161 214 1600Fax: +44(0)161 214

Pre-nuptial agreements are a pre-wedding requisite to help protect pre-acquired wealth or lifetime gifts made by parents to their children from marital breakdown. The courts have emphasised the importance of fairness as to whether the agreement can be enforced on separation. It is essential that legal advice is sought at an early stage to ensure that the agreement is binding.

Denise Moran Senior Solicitor DWF LLP, 1 Scott Place 2 Hardman Street Manchester M3 3AATel 0161 603 5000

Provided certain conditions are met when a pre-nuptial agreement is being drawn up, there is now a presumption that the terms of the agreement should be upheld on a divorce unless they produce an unfair result. It is therefore important to obtain advice from an experienced Family lawyer well in advance of the marriage ceremony so as to maximise the effectiveness of a prenuptial agreement.

Beverley Darwent, Pannone LLP, 123 Deansgate, Manchester. M3 2BUTel: 0161 909 1579, Fax: 0161 909 6449Email: