Pre-Nuptial Agreements – The Next Step?

Irwin Mitchell Reacts To Law Commission’s Latest Consultation

11.01.2011

A family law expert at leading national firm Irwin Mitchell has welcomed the Law Commission’s consultation on the future of pre-nuptial agreements and whether there should be a change in the law to make them binding.

Alison Hawes, Head of Family Law at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office, has flagged that while many people regard pre-nups as only relevant to the rich and famous, they could – if the law is changed – impact on all couples preparing to tie the knot.

The Law Commission’s consultation is asking for the public’s views on whether pre-nups should be binding – and wants any comments on the matter to be submitted by April.

Interest in the issue peaked in 2010 following the case of Radmacher v Granatino in October – when it was ruled in the Supreme Court that the separating couple’s own arrangement was legally binding. However, current legislation means that courts need to consider the issue case by case, which can result in some couples facing long and costly legal battles, as well as uncertainty.

Discussing the Law Commission’s decision to address the issue, family law expert Alison Hawes said: “Many couples see pre-nuptial agreements as anti-romantic, while others view them as unnecessary if they have no assets. Some view them as a ‘Hollywood’ concept for an elite.

“However, while they may not be a priority for some, the agreements are undoubtedly very useful and there is a strong argument they should be viewed as an important part of the wedding planning process, alongside sorting the flowers and the perfect dress.

“This is because, like wills, they can often save those going through the pain of divorce significant stress and cost.

Alison added that while couples themselves are often slow to consider pre-nups, inquiries about them can come from other sources.

She explained: “My experience is that it is common to hear from the family members of those getting married, who are keen for their loved ones to consider their options when it comes to a pre-nup.

“It might be a father concerned by his daughter’s choice of partner who wants to protect family assets or older children who are keen to protect their inheritance when parents marry for the second time.

“If the outcome of this consultation and public opinion leads to the suggestion that pre-nups should be legally binding, one of the most interesting aspects will be whether the government has the political will to push forward on it.”