Family Lawyers See Pre-Nup Instructions Rise

Specialists See Significant Rise In Instructions For Pre-Nuptial Agreements Over Past Year

09.07.2014

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Specialist family lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have seen a significant rise in the number of pre-nuptial agreements over past year and say that couples of all levels of wealth are beginning to see that they can be a positive step in a relationship.

Irwin Mitchell’s Family and Divorce team has seen a 51 per cent rise in instructions for pre-nuptial agreements in the last quarter of the financial year for 2013-14.  The increase reflects the trend for more people embarking on second or third marriages. Getting married later in life, they are likely to have more assets to protect.

The rise in enquiries comes just months after the Law Commission outlined proposals to reform the law to uphold pre-nups in the vast majority of cases.

Sarah Balfour, a specialist family and divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell said:

Expert Opinion
There was previously some uncertainty around pre-nups and there was potential for the courts to overrule them too easily. The proposed amendments to the law would give them more weight as long as they were produced to a certain criteria. Only in exceptional circumstances where this criteria is not met will the courts decide not to uphold them.”
Sarah Balfour, Associate

Experts at Irwin Mitchell say that there are several reasons for the rise in pre-nups including:

  • More people marrying at an older age when they are financially secure and have more assets to safeguard or children from previous relationships to protect
  • The stigma of pre-nups being unromantic is gradually being eroded
  • Steps to give pre-nups more weight by the courts moving forward
  • The rise in pre-nup popularity amongst celebrity couples.

Sarah said:

Expert Opinion
Whereas in the past, the thought of a pre-nuptial agreement has generally been seen as unromantic, the rise in instructions we have seen suggest that opinions are changing and they are being seen as a positive way to avoid lengthy court battles, and large legal bills, in the event of a separation.

“The latest figures show that 42% of marriages end in divorce so it is no surprise that many couples are now planning for a potential split just in case. We are seeing that pre-nups are becoming much more popular, particularly between partners that have built up sizable assets before they have met which they want to protect.

“The 65 to 69 age group has seen the biggest percentage increase in the number of marriages over recent years, often being second or third marriages. With children and homes already, a couple getting married later in life may want to protect their families’ inheritance as they realise that there is a chance that the marriage might not work out.”
Sarah Balfour, Associate

However, Irwin Mitchell stresses that pre-nups are not just the reserve of the wealthy. A young couple tying the knot, perhaps each owning a starter home or apartment might equally want to protect those assets in the event of their marriage ending.

Sarah added:

Expert Opinion
It is a common myth that pre-nups are there for one person to try to ensure that their partner gets nothing after a divorce, but this is not the situation. For a pre-nup to be considered by the courts, it cannot provide for an unfair outcome, and both parties need to be involved in and understand the process.

“Although it is possible to have an amicable divorce, it is all too common for couples to end up in dispute. A great deal of the acrimony associated with divorce flows from trying to agree financial arrangements.

“The financial consequences of divorce can often feel uncertain and overwhelming, especially if there are children involved. The legal framework in England and Wales allows the courts to take into account all the factors in a marriage and apply a great deal of discretion when determining a fair financial solution. Whilst that allows the court to reach bespoke solutions, it can make outcomes difficult to predict.

“Many people, including those who have been married before, have children, or are already financially secure in their lives, understand that a pre-nup is a good way to ensure that they have the opportunity to determine an acceptable division of their assets for themselves.

“Clients want certainty about what may happen in the future and pre-nups can empower a couple to decide for themselves how they will manage their financial affairs.

“Although not yet automatically binding, a pre-nup can provide a greater level of protection of their assets, should anything go wrong. Importantly, many couples see it is as a commitment that in the event of a separation further down the line, they will deal with the situation amicably and constructively.”
Sarah Balfour, Associate

In February this year The Law Commission set out plans to make pre-marital agreements legally binding in the vast majority of cases, as long as:

  • Both partners have had legal advice
  • Both partners have disclosed all relevant information about their finances
  • A pre-nuptial agreement has been made at least 28 days before the wedding or civil partnership.

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