Nuptial agreements are an aspect of marriage that are often misunderstood or unfairly maligned. Often thought to be the exclusive concern of celebrities and millionaires – or at least the unromantically selfish – these agreements are frequently considered to be unsuitable for the needs of the general public.

However, prenuptial arrangements can be a sensible idea for many people in a wide variety of situations, and they don’t have to be thought of as a bucket of ice water poured over the emotions of marriage.

If you’re considering a pragmatic, fair and transparent agreement in the unfortunate event that a marriage breaks down, it’s important to understand why they’re useful and why they don’t need to carry a stigma of hard-hearted cynicism.

What is a prenuptial agreement?

A nuptial agreement is a document created by a couple either prior to the event of their marriage (prenuptial) or afterwards (postnuptial).

At present, nuptial agreements are not officially recognised as legal documents in the UK – but can be upheld in court if they are well written and wouldn’t place one partner in an unfair predicament.

In a prenuptial agreement, the couple sets out ahead of time what will happen to their assets, possessions and property in the event of a divorce. If one partner has assets they would like to keep in the event of a separation, this can be established in the agreement – often referred to as ‘ringfencing’.

In order for a prenuptial agreement to be upheld, it must have been drawn up a reasonable amount of time prior to the marriage (usually more than 28 days) and not signed under any undue pressure or unfair circumstances.

It’s also important that both partners should have received independent legal advice from different solicitors concerning the agreement, and that both parties have disclosed their full financial status to the other beforehand.

Are prenuptial agreements unromantic?

Of course, whether or not something is ‘romantic’ is entirely subject to every individual’s personal point of view. Some people consider roses and candles to be romantic, while others think of them as being Valentine’s Day clichés.

To some, the very idea of considering the possibility of divorce prior to marriage is contrary to the whole idea. If you’re not planning to be together forever, then why get married? Isn’t the point of marriage to share everything? Why would you want to lock away some things and say, ‘this is mine’?

In reality, of course, nobody can predict the future and anything can happen. Who really knows how they or their partner will feel in twenty years’ time, or sixty? Taking the long view, everything in life is subject to change.

Considering a prenuptial agreement doesn’t have to mean that you’re expecting the marriage to end – it’s a simple precaution against the unknown territory of future life, and there are many sensible and unselfish reasons for considering one.

Who might need a prenuptial agreement?

Despite the common supposition that prenuptial agreements are primarily used by the rich and famous, they have a much wider range of applications in practice.

For example, a remarrying widow may want to preserve some of her assets in the event of a divorce, ensuring that they can go to her children from a previous marriage, rather than to her new partner. Without a prenuptial agreement in place, a court could conceivably divide all assets fifty-fifty.

Another point to consider is that it’s not just financial assets that can be kept from a partner via a prenuptial agreement, but also debt. If one partner is substantially in the red, a clause can be used to help protect the other party from being liable for the debt in the event of a divorce.

There are various other situations in which a nuptial agreement might be of great benefit; for one, it makes sense for an entrepreneur or business owner to want to retain ownership of their venture should the marriage come to an end.

Alternatively for those with inherited money or property, it’s sometimes important that the assets stay within the family. The same can be said for gifts – for example, if one partner’s parents give their child a sum of money to help with buying a house or another large investment, they may wish to ensure that the funds stay in the family if anything were to happen to the relationship.

These common examples don’t necessarily reflect the supposed selfishness that prenuptial agreements are often thought to represent, but are simply pragmatic considerations that can help protect an individual and their wider family.

The advantages of a prenuptial agreement

For some, the prospect of broaching the subject of nuptial agreements with their future spouse might be a daunting task.

However, there are numerous benefits to planning such an agreement. For one, the financial openness required to draw up the nuptial document can be form the basis of sensible financial planning – with both partners knowing exactly what they own.

This can provide a foundation to discuss future goals, budgetary concerns and plans for building a life together. Financial concerns are among the leading problems faced in modern relationships, and taking the time to clearly define priorities and values before getting married can be a good way for couples to understand each other’s principles.

It can also allow a couple to have some autonomy over their own future and not leave their wellbeing in the hands of a family court judge in the event of separation.

In conclusion, prenuptial agreements are frequently misunderstood – the common stigma of them being mostly for unsentimental misers or famous faces does a great disservice to their broad range of uses and benefits. In reality, these agreements are nothing more than pragmatic insurance policies against the unknowns of tomorrow.

About Girlings Solicitors

Girlings Solicitors are trusted family law solicitors in Herne Bay, Canterbury and Ashford. With nearly 140 years of experience providing personal, business and not-for-profit legal services, Girlings is one of the largest and oldest law firms in Kent.

Disclosure: Some of the content in this blog post was sponsored by Girlings Solicitors, however all views and opinions belong to Honeysuckle & Castle. Honeysuckle & Castle do not collaborate with any brand or promote any product that they do not believe fits with their overall brand values.