Pre Nups Becoming Law – Have You Got One?


An attempt to reduce the number of battling ex husbands and wives going through the court system is being made by the Law Commission. They will be drawing up plans to make prenuptial agreements ('pre-nups') legally binding – a proposal that will affect more than 250,000 couples a year.

Prenuptial agreements

What Will the Reforms Change?

The rules will be re-written in terms of how money and property should be shared after a marital breakdown. Up until this point, it has been an arbitrary process depending on what evidence each party brings to the table. The reforms aim to bring a more focussed approach.

The law reform watchdog wants to put an end to the myth that maintenance is a "meal ticket" for wives to live on for the rest of their lives. The new law may also allow couples to ring fence property or gifts that they brought into the marriage from being distributed between the two of them after a split. This is particularly important for those who are marrying for a second time or more and fear their property may be at risk if there are no provisions to protect it.

It is also likely that safeguards will be built into the new laws that will protect one spouse being in need after a divorce, both parties requiring legal advice and a proposed limitation period on maintenance. Scotland already have a limitation period on how long spousal maintenance should last of 2 to 3 years.

Will Anyone Actually Use Them?

Although seen as a reserve for the super-rich, pre-nups are set to become more popular. The demand is set to soar in the UK according to experts with multiple political parties supporting the new rules. Family law solicitors have seen a number of couples using martial agreements, although they have not been legally binding. 118,000 couples were divorced in 2011 and from that number we can expect a great deal more will be interested in pre nups to secure assets.

Resolution, a national family law charity, welcome the legislation commenting that it will, "put beyond doubt" that marital agreements are legally binding. Pre-nups could also have a positive effect on any children involved in a marriage breakup – especially when it comes to parents fighting over maintenance and other money related issues.

The agreements can also be used by gay couples who from last year were able to legally marry in the UK.

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