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Read more articles in: Author, Blog, Family Law, Stuart Daniel

What is a “pre-nup” and do I need one?

A prenuptial agreement, or “pre-nup,” is a legal document entered into by a couple before they marry or enter a civil partnership.

Effectively, it outlines how their assets, debts, and finances should be divided in the event of the relationship ending, divorce or separation.

While they aren’t technically legally binding, greater consideration is often given to them by the courts during settlement agreements after a divorce or separation.

A pre-nup agreement aims to provide clarity and protect each party’s interests, especially if one or both individuals enter the marriage with significant assets or liabilities.

Do you need a pre-nup?

You might need a pre-nuptial agreement in several circumstances – especially when you want to protect your personal assets and financial interests.

Here are some scenarios where a pre-nup could be especially important:

  • You have significant assets: If you have substantial assets, property, or wealth before getting married, a pre-nup can ensure these remain protected or are divided according to your wishes in the event of a separation.
  • You own a business: Owners or part-owners of businesses may use a pre-nup to safeguard their business interests, ensuring that marital proceedings do not disrupt the business’s operations or ownership.
  • Debts are involved: If one party enters the marriage with significant debt, a pre-nup can protect the other party from being responsible for this debt should the marriage end.
  • You’re worried about your inheritance: If you expect to receive or have received a substantial inheritance, a pre-nup can help ensure that these assets remain in your family or are distributed according to your preferences.
  • There is a significant disparity in your financial situations: When there’s a significant difference in the financial status or income between partners, a pre-nup can provide reassurance and protection for both parties.
  • Second or subsequent marriages: Individuals entering their second or subsequent marriage often have prior obligations or assets that they wish to protect or allocate in specific ways.

While discussing a pre-nuptial agreement might not seem romantic, it can be a practical step towards ensuring both parties enter the marriage with a clear understanding of their financial rights and responsibilities.

It’s essential to approach the topic sensitively and consider obtaining independent legal advice to ensure the agreement is fair and valid for both individuals.

DIY pre-nups – A good or bad idea?

While it’s technically possible to create a “DIY” pre-nup, doing so comes with some significant risks.

  • Legal validity concerns: Without legal expertise, a DIY pre-nup might not comply with legal standards, making it less likely to be upheld in court.
  • Lack of full disclosure: Solicitors ensure full financial disclosure between parties, a critical aspect of a valid pre-nup. DIY agreements might miss this, risking the agreement’s enforceability.
  • Failure to address future changes: Professional legal advice can help predict and stipulate provisions for future changes in circumstances, which DIY agreements often overlook.
  • Risk of unfairness: Without legal guidance, one party might be disadvantaged, making the agreement unfair and less likely to be considered by a court.

As you can see, a DIY pre-nup comes with a variety of problems and, unless you are experienced in these matters, they are unlikely to stand up in court.

When should you involve a solicitor?

Solicitors have the legal expertise to ensure that any agreement complies with current laws and regulations.

They can foresee potential legal issues and address them within the agreement.

Basically, they can ensure that any pre-nup fulfils the relevant requirements and criteria to make it binding and enforceable.

As a result, we recommend that any couple looking into pre-nuptial agreements gets in touch with their solicitor at their earliest convenience.

If you are thinking of writing a pre-nuptial agreement, please don’t hesitate to contact us – we can help you.

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.