Posted by Richard Ellis, Partner
Will prenup agreements become legally binding?
A leading article in The Times this week reported that the Law Commission will recommend that prenup agreements should become binding and legally enforceable in the UK.
Readers of our previous post on prenup agreements will know that prenuptial agreements are not currently binding in the UK. In recent years, more and more weight has been given to these arrangements by the divorce Courts. However, different Courts have taken different approaches; this has resulted in inconsistencies throughout the country and uncertainty for individuals seeking to rely on prenup agreements in divorce proceedings.
The Law Commission is due to publish a report on Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements on 27 February 2014, following three years of consultations. The report will include a draft bill which the press is hinting will mean prenuptial agreements will become legally binding.
Where have they come from?
Prenuptial agreements have crossed the pond from the USA – a bit like donuts and Halloween and a survey quoted by The Times found that about 83% of 600 family lawyers has advised on at least one prenuptial agreement in the past year.
Experts predict a ‘surge in interest’ and The Times reports that more than 250,000 couples a year will be given a chance to secure legally binding settlements before they say ‘I do’. They will be able to enter into a binding contract setting out the terms under which property and money should be shared on marriage breakdown.
The new laws should also allow future husbands and wives to ‘ring-fence’ property that they bring into the marriage, preventing it from being shared on divorce.
The proposal of the Law Commission is expected to receive cross-party political support and it is possible that the new legislation will be passed before the 2015 general election.
As a family lawyer, I think this is a welcome development. Set rules would also help to resolve matrimonial disputes more quickly and in a less traumatic way for all parties involved, particularly any children.
Prenuptial agreements are already part of the British landscape and – exactly like donuts and Halloween – are here to stay. Our hope is that developing clear, certain and accessible rules will assist couples in making the most of prenups.
If you’re thinking about getting an agreement have a look at our previous post to see what criteria it should satisfy. Once again we would recommend steering clear of DIY prenup agreements as these won’t cut the mustard in Court.
If you have questions about prenup agreements or any other aspect of family law, we can help. Contact our family team today by calling 0800 923 2074 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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