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Wedding planning – Essential clauses for a pre-nuptial agreement

According to a recent survey, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Valentine’s Day are the most popular days of the year to pop the question.

With the season of proposals now behind us, couples across the country are turning to wedding planning – but shared finances and property will still cause trouble for many marriages.

Financial worries can be pre-empted and addressed before the wedding, however, through a pre-nuptial agreement.

A pre-nuptial agreement is a written contract created by two people before they are married, typically listing all the property each person owns, as well as any debts, and specifying what each person’s property rights will be after the marriage.

Stuart Daniel, Head of Mander Hadley’s Family Department, explains what needs to be included in a pre-nuptial agreement to protect both spouses and support an amicable separation if needed.

Why do people get pre-nuptial agreements?

“There are many reasons why couples might choose a pre-nuptial agreement,” says Stuart.

“There is also a misconception that having this agreement in place is setting a couple up for failure or separation. This is almost always not the case – it’s about protecting your assets and staying prepared.”

The primary motive for a pre-nuptial agreement is to protect individual assets, particularly for those entering a marriage with significant assets, property, or inheritance.

It can also help individuals who have children from previous relationships to secure their future inheritance.

More simply, an agreement may clarify financial responsibilities during the marriage.

Do couples have to abide by pre-nuptial agreements?

In the UK, pre-nuptial agreements are not automatically legally binding. However, the courts are increasingly taking them into account as a decisive factor in divorce settlements.

For a pre-nuptial agreement to be considered by a court, certain criteria must be met. These include both parties:

  • Receiving independent legal advice,
  • Receiving full financial disclosure and the
  • Signing the agreement at least 21 days before the wedding

The court will also look to ensure that the agreement is fair and doesn’t disadvantage any children produced by the marriage.

Key components of a pre-nuptial agreement

“Depending on the circumstances of the couple, a pre-nuptial agreement might look different in each instance.

“The important thing is to make sure every asset and angle has been considered and that both parties are happy with what has been agreed,” says Stuart.

A good place to start is to consider some of the most common assets included in a pre-nup. These include:

  • Assets and property – Covering everything from real estate, bank accounts, and investments, to personal belongings like jewellery or cars.
  • Debts – Disclose any debts to prevent surprises in the future and establish a clear understanding of each person’s financial responsibilities.
  • Income and inheritance – If one spouse expects significant changes in wealth after marriage, detail how future earnings, inheritance, or gifts will be treated.
  • Spousal support –This includes how much and for how long one party might support the other in the event of a divorce.
  • Division of property – Outline how property, assets, and debts will be divided in the event of a divorce. This includes both the property acquired before and during the marriage.
  • Pets – Although classed as property, very few of us consider our pets in this way. To many, agreements around the future ownership and care of pets can be a significant issue and one that is best dealt with before marriage.

“The majority of couples will need to consider these issues before marrying to avoid unpleasant financial surprises further down the line,” explains Stuart.

“While they are often seen as unromantic, a well-written and considered pre-nuptial agreement can help to strengthen a relationship by providing peace of mind.

“Money is one of the most common difficulties for couples in the UK so, far from preparing married couples for divorce, pre-nuptial agreements may serve to protect a marriage in the long term.”

Other considerations

Some relationships or family situations are more complicated than others. In these instances, couples may benefit from additional clauses in their pre-nuptial agreements:

  • Children from previous relationships – If there are children from previous relationships, the agreement can include provisions for their inheritance or financial support.
  • Management of expenses – Detail how joint expenses and bank accounts will be managed during the marriage.
  • Review clause – Consider including a clause to review the agreement periodically. This can be useful if circumstances change significantly, such as the birth of children.
  • Conflict resolution – Specify the method for resolving disputes about the agreement, whether through mediation, arbitration, or court proceedings.
  • Business interests – If either party owns a business, the agreement should address how the business assets will be treated to protect a business from being divided as marital property.

Pre-nuptial agreements can have a major positive impact on financial affairs for a couple and should be considered for any couple considering getting married.

To achieve the best outcome for both parties and ensure a fair, balanced outcome, we can offer advice on drafting and enforcing a pre-nuptial agreement.

We know that pre-nuptial agreements can be an uncomfortable part of the wedding planning. To make the process simple, we can advise on all elements of family financial planning – so contact us today.

Stuart Daniel

Head of Family Department

I qualified as a Solicitor in 2006 and now specialise in divorce, financial settlements, childcare arrangements and Pre Nuptial Agreements. I have many years’ experience as a private family lawyer having worked with two other local firms before returning to Mander Hadley, where I first undertook work experience during my university studies.