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Law Firm Reports 10 Per Cent Rise In Yorkshire Pre-Nups

Pre-nuptial agreements


More Yorkshire people are regarding divorce settlements as key financial management tools, says national law firm Irwin Mitchell.

The organisation reports being asked to arrange 10 per cent more pre-nuptial agreements, which set out how jointly-owned assets should be divided if marriages end, in the county over the past year.

Pre-nuptial solicitors

Alison Straw, of Irwin Mitchell's family team, whose offices are in Queen Street, Leeds, said: "It's noticeable this heightened demand in the county is being led by accountants and professionals involved in wealth management and financial planning. For couples with substantial assets, who can afford to employ such advisers, the pre-nup is an especially advisable form of wealth protection."

While pre-nups can be hard to reconcile with expressions of love and the vows couples make in church, such interest is hardly surprising, given recent high-profile divorce awards, such as the recent £15m settlement for Eimear Montgomerie, wife of golfer Colin.

But the interest in pre-nups isn't just coming from couples with millionaire lifestyles. The number of weddings in England and Wales rose for the third successive year in 2004, with divorces also increasing to 153,500, the highest level since 1996 and two marriages in five now reaching this point of no return.

With ordinary couples aware of such statistics, alarm bells appear to be ringing before wedding bells for them too, particularly for those heading down the aisle for a second or third time.

Pre-nups originated in the United States and although not legally binding in Britain there are proposals to change the law. Many judges already take the agreements into account when deciding divorce cases.

Mrs Straw said: "If pre-nups were enforceable, more people might be encouraged to get married, as they can help avoid future heartache and distress, helping couples to resolve more matters themselves rather than having courts impose settlements.

"Unfortunately, marital breakdown is a part of everyday life and the fact that we are beginning to get more enquiries has got to be viewed as positive, despite agreeing a pre-nup probably being the most unromantic gesture you could ever make.

"Colin Montgomerie didn't have one and ended up having to pay one of the biggest divorce settlements seen in Britain, handing over half his estimated fortune. There's a good chance a pre-nup could have helped him hang on to more of his millions."

Pre-nups are now becoming almost pre-requisites among the rich and famous, with stars such as Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, and Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman all having signed on the dotted line before tying the knot.

Mrs Straw said this was partly because many A-listers had regretted not making a pre-nup previously and had learned from their mistakes. Tom Cruise did not have an agreement for his first marriage to Mimi Rogers in the early 1990s but made sure he had one when he tied the knot with Nicole Kidman. Jennifer Lopez did not have one for her short-lived marriage to the choreographer Cris Judd, and ended up paying $6.6m to prevent him disclosing their intimate details to the press. And Roseanne Barr's failure to sign a pre-nuptial agreement with Tom Arnold ended up costing her $50m.

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