Pre-Nuptial Agreements

pre-nuptial handcuffHearing the word ‘pre-nuptial’ throws our thoughts into the world of rich people, film stars and celebrities, where reams of documents laying down restrictions and clauses are poured over by lawyers and clients alike.  Marriages have even been known to be halted until signatures have been applied to the ‘contract’.

A pre-nuptial agreement is a written contract between couples who are about to marry or live with each other.  Terms written on the contract are a way of eliminated disagreements over assets and finances during the marriage or in the event of a marriage break down.

Situations such as:

  • How any debts occurred before marriage is dealt with.
  • What will happen to joint savings.
  • Conditions of both parties’ income and separate bank balances.
  • If you both have separate homes, what is to become of them?
  • One or both of you may have elderly parents or loved ones who need help financially.

On a more ‘celebrity’ note, some agreements such as below have been included:

  • What happens if one cheats on the other?
  • Who will do what regarding housework, paying bills etc?
  • Equal choices on where to go for Holidays.

You could have some of your own clauses added for fun:

  • Always put down the toilet seat.
  • Don’t nag me while I’m driving the car.
  • Don’t hog the remote control for the TV.
  • Don’t file your nails while I’m watching the Sports.

Although the papers would not be held as binding in any UK Court of Law during a divorce, this could be about to change as rulings on divorce settlements and proposals are being raised to change the law regarding the legality of a pre-nuptial agreement.  In some parts of the country the Courts may agree to look at pre-nuptial agreements during settlement, providing both parties have had independent legal advice and exchanged full financial disclosure.

Who Should Have a Pre-Nuptial Agreement

pen signingAs well as the rich and famous people, pre nuptial agreements should be considered for a number of reasons.

This could be your second marriage and you should consider any pre-marriage assets you may have for a number of reasons.

  • If you both have children, you may wish to leave them different inheritances/properties. 
  • You may have accumulated significant retirement assets with investments or property.
  • Any business interests if you are a partner/ownership in a company will be protected for future generations.
  • The financial well-being of children from a previous marriage can be protected.
  • Inheritances due to your children from previous family members.
  • Religious and educational upbringing of your children.
  • Favorite household items that you each bring individually to the marriage.
  • Costs that could occur such as divorce or property fees.

Nuptial agreements during the 19th century were necessary for females, more so in America.  Until The Married Women's Property Act of 1848 came into fruition everything women owned or inherited (even after marriage) was automatically transferred to her spouse.  On the death of her husband or if they divorced, she could end up losing everything and left destitute or at the mercy of her own children.

Pre-Nuptial Agreements Can Be For Protection

Having a prenuptial marriage agreement does not mean that a couple is anticipating divorce; it is more of a protection of any assets, inheritance and children’s rights from previous relationships.

Some may view pre-nuptial agreements as unromantic and feel it can show a lack of trust and respect between the parties concerned.  It may even cause resentment, and if so needs to be talked over honestly and thoroughly, until both parties are happy to go ahead with the agreement.

If you or your partner is considering a pre-nuptial agreement you should seek independent legal advice, hire separate lawyers and above all, discuss it with plenty of time well before your wedding day.

It is important that both parties are willing to sign such an agreement and there must not be any pressure applied by the other party or any parents. 

stack of paperSigning the pre-nuptial agreement is best done at a minimum period of at least 6 weeks prior to the wedding day.  This gives plenty of time to reflect and can be put aside while you concentrate on the important subject of getting married.

Remember this is your safeguard for yourself and your children.  It’s not romantic to think you are ‘preparing’ for a break up – this may never happen!  But if it does, a pre-nuptial agreement could save you a lot of heartbreak in the long-term.

Alterations or Void and Invalid

Prenuptial agreements are flexible and can be written in such a way to take account of changes that may occur, such as the birth of a child or the longevity of the relationship.

The contract can also become void and invalid if for instance it was found that full disclosure was not provided by one party or if an asset of significant value was discovered by the other party later in the marriage. 

If it was found one party had been placed under pressure by family members to sign, this will also count towards the pre-nuptial being made invalid.

Famous Celebraties and Pre-Nuptial Agreements

No doubt Sir Paul McCartney is thinking long and hard about his refusal to have a pre-nuptial agreement when he married Heather Mills.  This divorce could go down as being one of the most expensive settlements in history by the time it is finished!

Melanie Brown, scary spice from the Spice Girls did not heed the advice of her family and friends and when her marriage broke down, she had to pay £3 million to her ex husband.

Michael Douglas was one celebrity that did have a detailed pre nuptial agreement when he married Catherine Zeta Jones.  He learnt the hard way when he had to pay his first wife a settlement of $40 million dollars.

When American Basketball player, Michael Jordon split from his wife, he was in a league of his own with setting a record payout of $168 million dollars.  His ex wife also obtained custody of their three children and the couple’s seven acre estate in Chicago.

People who do agree to have a pre-nuptial agreement should not use it for a ‘test’ of love; and it is not there for an easy way out for people who are not 100% sure their marriage will last.  A marriage is an emotional and physical union between two people, but at the same time it is a union of finances! 

If you wish to protect your assets for either yourself or your children, a pre-nuptial could help make provisions for life’s twists and turns that unexpectedly happen.  Look upon it as an ‘insurance policy’ protecting you both from an unknown future.