By Peter Jones, founder of Jones Myers family law specialist
The increasing popularity of pre-nup agreements reflects how couples view their open and transparent nature as a positive factor when planning their wedding.
Far from castigating the agreements as clinical and unromantic, more couples are showing that while seeking to protect inherited or family money, they also want to do ‘the right thing’ by each other – and by any children.
In our vast experience, too many people marry without proper discussions about important issues such as families and careers and entering into a pre-nup promotes healthy dialogue.
Also, a high percentage of couples who marry are older and have more income and capital. The disclosure aspect means that both are committed to openness.
Pre-nups have grown in popularity and influence since a 2010 Supreme Court ruling recommended that, although not legally binding, courts should uphold carefully thought-through agreements drawn up well in advance of the marriage and without coercion.
Increasing influence of prenups on courts
The increasing influence of pre-nups on courts suggests that they will take them very seriously into account in determining fairness and needs and ensure that these lie at the heart of the terms of such contracts.
Originally drawn up to set out how a couple’s assets will be split if the marriage fails, the contracts can also address vital issues. These include child residence and contact arrangements, occupation of homes on separation, interim support at the time of separation and provision for each of the parties on the death of either or both of them.
We have witnessed the positive impacts of pre-nups, which give comfort in cases where the wealthier spouse agrees to provide for the other spouse in the event of a split. Also, some couples embarking on marriage for the second time are keen to go down the pre-nup route to ensure that certain assets are preserved for their children from previous relationships.
Circumstances where the contracts run into problems include if judges are concerned that they are signed under pressure. They will want to know that the partner with the most to lose understood the agreement, was not pressured to sign it, and took independent legal advice. Courts may ignore or vary pre-nups drawn up in haste.
We advise that the agreement is signed at least 21 days before the wedding, making full financial disclosure and securing good legal advice. If respected family lawyers help draw up the agreement, judges can be confident that both parties understood it fully and were not rushed into it.
About Peter Jones
Peter Jones is one of the country’s leading divorce and family lawyers. A qualified arbitrator and mediator, Peter set up Jones Myers as the first niche family law firm in the north of England in 1992 and has acted for a string of high-profile clients.
Renowned for his sympathetic approach, he is a former national chairman of Resolution, a former Deputy District Judge – and instigated the D5 Group of law firms that promotes excellence in family law.