A pre-nuptial agreement is a contract entered by a couple before they get married or have a civil partnership. It can include all sorts of information, but usually covers financial agreements in the event of a divorce.
Writing a pre-nuptial agreement is covered in four steps:
- Get legal advice – each person should seek independent legal advice.
- Decide what should or should not be covered in the agreement with your partner.
- Decide how ownership of property and assets should be split in the event of separation.
- Create the document. Seeking the help of a solicitor will ensure it’s legally sound.
Here, we’ll go into more detail in regards to the above, explain how a pre-nuptial agreement works, and how to ensure that it’s legal. If you’d like personal advice about your pre-nuptial agreement, you can speak to legal specialists by getting in touch with First4lawyers.
How does a pre-nuptial agreement work?
A pre-nuptial agreement works by setting out guidelines in the event of a divorce, before the marriage or civil partnership has even been entered.
It can include almost limitless details, but it will typically discuss financial support in the event of a break-up, such as spousal and child support; how assets such your home should be dealt with, and what percentage of any profits one partner should receive if the other partner owns a business.
Why would I need a pre-nuptial agreement?
When you marry or enter a civil partnership, personal assets such as property, income and child support become what’s known as ‘marital assets’. Even if you have a personal arrangement in your partnership saying otherwise, in the eyes of the law they are shared by both people.
If you get divorced, and there is no prior arrangement in place, there’s no secure limit on what conditions your ex-partner could place on your personal assets. For instance, one party may demand a higher amount of spousal support than you think necessary. Or if a party refuses to pay spousal support, it could leave you in a difficult financial position.
How to write a pre-nuptial agreement
A pre-nuptial agreement should be written in clear, sensible terms, ideally in the structure of a contract.
Before you start, it is advised both partners receive independent, individual legal advice from a family law solicitor experienced with pre-nuptial agreements. This will ensure neither person enters the contract without fully understanding their rights.
It is also important that all financial circumstances are disclosed before writing the agreement. For example, both partners should fully understand any assets the other owns, as well as any and all debts.
Although, there’s no one set layout for the document, the following is important:
- Full names of both partners.
- The circumstances in which this agreement should become binding (i.e. in the event of a marriage or civil partnership).
- If different topics are covered (e.g. finances, assets, agreed roles within the marriage), these need to be split into different sections, with each section including sub-sections (e.g. 1. Finances; 1.1 Pension, 1.2 Spousal Support).
- Terms set out that acknowledge changes in circumstances in the future, and how this could affect the agreement (e.g. how would unemployment or long-term illness affect the change in financial support in the event of a divorce?).
- Cover how different circumstances leading to the breakdown of marriage might affect the agreement (e.g. if adultery would change the support given if this was the reason for divorce).
- Both partners should sign (both full name and signature) and date the agreement, and have two witness signatures.
It’s highly recommended that a solicitor writes up the agreement for you, to ensure it’s legally binding and covers all relevant information.
How to make a pre-nuptial agreement legal
Unlike other countries, UK law does not currently view pre-nuptial agreements as a binding, legal contract, and all assets will still be considered marital assets in the eyes of the law.
However, courts could take properly written and considered pre-nuptial agreements into serious consideration, particularly if they feel that major effort has been put into the agreement.
There are certain actions you can take to ensure that your agreement is taken extremely seriously in the event of a break-up:
- Write the agreement in advance – Aim to have the agreement written and signed about a month before you are set to get married.
- Both partners received independent legal advice – This will show the court that both people were fully aware of their legal rights.
- All relevant information was disclosed – If any information wasn’t disclosed before the agreement was signed, the court may disregard the agreement.
- Was anyone under pressure to sign? – Even with all of the above, if the court feels either party was forced to sign against their best wishes, they won’t take the agreement as seriously.
- Is the agreement fair to both parties? – The court will want to ensure that the settlement is fair to both partners, but this doesn’t necessarily mean equal distribution of finances.
Would you like personal advice about pre-nuptial agreements?
It’s important you receive legal advice before starting a pre-nuptial agreement. It’s the most important element courts will consider when looking at the agreement if you eventually divorce, and it is in the best interest of everyone involved.
First4lawyers works with experienced and knowledgeable solicitors, who have a full understanding of how pre-nuptial agreements should work. You can get in touch today, and you’ll be put directly in contact with a legal specialist who can talk through your circumstances.
Note: First4lawyers offers this information as guidance, not advice. Before taking any action, you should seek professional assistance tailored to your personal circumstances and not rely on First4lawyers’ online information alone.