Posted by Richard Ellis, Partner
Are DIY prenup agreements really a good idea?
National newspapers report of a new online service being launched in the UK which allows couples to draw up a prenuptial agreement for a small fee and with minimal legal assistance.
So you’re engaged. Congratulations! You start trawling the internet for inspiration for your big day and you come across a website offering a kit to create a bespoke prenuptial agreement.
Suddenly, you are confronted with the opportunity to settle a future financial dispute that might arise on divorce before you even get married. From the comfort of your living room, on payment of a small fee and in less than half an hour, you could go through a checklist and a template and end up with a finished product that looks a lot like a binding contract. There are also the services of an ‘on call lawyer’ available.
But, prenup agreements are not legally binding in the UK; family Courts retain the power to override them. This area of the law is, however, rapidly developing and the Courts are now more inclined to accept and follow prenup agreements entered into by the parties if they had a full appreciation of its implications, unless in the circumstances this would be unfair.
At the moment the Courts have made it quite clear that they will not uphold prenup agreements unless:
a) Both parties have had independent legal advice
b) The agreement is entered into at least 21 days before the marriage
c) Full disclosure of financial and other relevant circumstances has been given
d) The parties have intended to create a legally binding agreement with full understanding of its consequences.
This means that a DIY prenup produced online will not be accepted.
Is planning for divorce the death of romance?
We think no more than having a Will is bringing death upon you. Death is inevitable and divorce is not, but recent statistics show that 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce. Having a contingency plan starts sounding more appealing.
Prenup agreements are no longer an extravagance. They can be an extremely useful tool, especially for couples who come to marriage later in life, where there are children from previous relationships or when significant disparity in wealth might be an issue.
Family solicitors have welcomed the demystification of prenup agreements which are becoming more readily available. They have, however, highlighted the dangers of DIY agreements which will not meet the requirements set out above.
It is questionable whether such a complex matter can be properly addressed without specialist input. It is always worth seeking the advice of a family lawyer to ensure one’s interests are properly protected.
Family law solicitors who combine expertise with understanding