What’s a prenuptial agreement?
In England and Wales, a prenuptial agreement, also known as a ‘prenup’, is a legal agreement made by a couple before they get married or enter into a civil partnership. It sets out how their assets, property, and finances would be divided in the event of a divorce or separation.
The main purpose of a prenuptial agreement is to provide clarity and protection for both people involved. It allows couples to make decisions about their finances and assets in a fair and transparent way, rather than relying solely on the legal procedures in place on divorce, which are clouded by uncertainty.
In a prenuptial agreement, couples can outline how their assets and debts should be divided if they separate in the future. They can also include any special arrangements for property, businesses, or investments. This is also known as ‘ring fencing’ certain assets. The agreement may address issues such as spousal maintenance, division of joint bank accounts, and ownership of properties acquired before and during the marriage or civil partnership.
Are prenuptial agreements legally enforceable?
It's important to note that prenuptial agreements are not automatically legally binding in England and Wales. However, they are given significant weight by the courts, especially if they are fair and both people entered into the agreement willingly, with full understanding, mental capacity, and without any external pressure.
To give weight to a prenuptial agreement, both people must provide full financial disclosure and seek independent legal advice and must not have been entered into the agreement within 28 days immediately before the marriage or civil partnership ceremony. It is recommended to consult with a solicitor who specialises in family law to draft and review the agreement to make sure that it meets the necessary legal requirements and protects the interests of both individuals.
While prenuptial agreements can provide guidance and security, it's also important to remember that they cannot override the courts' power to make decisions based on what is deemed fair in each specific case. There is no defined formula for dividing assets on divorce or dissolution, and a judge will always consider the welfare and needs of any children involved as a top priority.
In short, if there’s not enough to go around to meet the needs of both people and any children, then assets that have been ringfenced for one person in the prenuptial agreement, may have to be shared as part of the divorce/ dissolution settlement.
Summary: what is a prenuptial agreement?
Prenuptial agreements are becoming increasingly common in England and Wales, as a way for couples to outline how their assets and finances would be divided if their relationship were to end. Whilst not automatically legally binding, they are viewed as persuasive evidence in court proceedings and provide a level of financial certainty as well as reduce potential conflicts if divorce or dissolution proceedings were to unfold in the future.
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Are prenuptial agreements binding in the UK?
Prenuptial agreements are not strictly binding but are considered persuasive by the courts in England and Wales. This means that while a prenuptial agreement can carry significant weight in legal proceedings, it is ultimately up to the court's discretion to decide whether to enforce it or not.
How much does a prenuptial agreement cost UK?
Generally, the cost can range from around £1000 to £3000, however, it depends on the complexity of the prenup and who drafts it. For a straightforward prenuptial agreement, where both people have relatively simple financial situations and agree, the cost is likely to be at the lower end of the spectrum.
Can a prenuptial agreement be overturned?
Yes, a prenuptial agreement can be overturned or not fully enforced by the courts in England and Wales under certain circumstances. The courts take into account factors such as whether each person has sought legal advice prior to signing the prenup; whether both people have fully disclosed their finances; whether there was any undue pressure; and whether the prenuptial agreement is fair and reasonable.
Can I get a prenuptial agreement after marriage?
You can get a postnuptial agreement (also known as a post-marital agreement) after marriage which is very similar to a prenup. Prenuptial agreements are used for outlining assets, and how they are to be divided on divorce.
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