Pre-nups not just for Hollywood stars

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Pre-nuptial agreements, once the preserve of Hollywood stars, are becoming ever more popular and commonplace particularly for second marriages.

That is the view of Paul Breen, a director in the Stratford-upon-Avon office of law firm CBTC Rawstorne.

“Once bitten, twice shy is very definitely the case with those re-marrying.

Couples are looking to prevent bitter financial fall-outs in the event that they decide to go their separate ways. But pre-nuptial agreements are all in the drafting – you need to think of everything these days.

For example, what happens to the dog can be a real bone of contention. You even need to consider how to avoid being burned by those long term contracts you may have signed when deciding to put solar panels on the roof.”

Pre-nups are proving worthwhile to those who wish to protect suburban family homes and middle-income savings and pension pots from expensive divorce settlements imposed by the courts.

But, of course, they have been popularised by celebrities such as in the cases of Charles Saatchi, Tom Cruise and Rupert Murdoch, all said to have been settled quickly by watertight pre-nups.

Mr Breen said:

“And it is not just pre-nuptial agreements these days but cohabitation agreements and separation agreements.

People take a pragmatic view – the days of love conquering all including the divorce statistics is fading away.

And pets can be a big issue. You can’t divide up a dog but you can divide up its time – in one recent US split it was eventually agreed that the pampered pooch should live six months in Virginia and six months in British Columbia, the respective parties having decided to put the whole continent of North America between them.

On a more serious note, pre-nups (usually referred to as pre-marriage agreements in this country) are not found in the law made by Parliament and so the question is ‘Are they enforceable?’ – or worth the paper they are written on.

Recent court cases have shown that they are capable of being legally binding, but not always, and especially if they lead to significant injustice.

They are most likely to work with childless marriages, second marriages, and middle aged and elderly marriages, and where there is fairness and common sense in the process and the agreement itself.

On the other hand, they become very challengeable where children have been born subsequently, where one of the couple did not receive legal advice, and, interestingly, where the agreement is made less than three weeks before the marriage itself.”