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Pre/Post Nuptial Agreements

There is a common myth, which I have heard clients repeat that “If I built the asset up before the marriage, it can’t be claimed against”. Unfortunately this is not necessarily the case, and with multiple and later life marriages becoming more common, it is important that it is understood what assets are put at risk of a claim when a marriage breaks down. 

Upon the breakdown of a marriage all assets are taken into account whether in joint or sole names, whether inherited, built up or purchased prior to the marriage or during the marriage.

You may be able to exclude certain assets as non-matrimonial if both parties needs can be met from the matrimonial assets and if the asset was inherited, built up/purchased prior to the marriage, have not been mingled with other matrimonial assets and the other party has received no benefit from them.

It is rarely the case that both parties can agree that all of the above boxes are ticked and both are happy to set assets aside to not be taken into account and shared. Even if you are successful in having an asset declared non-matrimonial and not shareable, you will have spent money, time and stress arguing this point. 

The simplest and most effective way to safeguard your assets is to enter into a pre-nuptial agreement. Although pre-nuptial agreements are not legally binding in the UK they are given significant weight, and, if done properly, will be persuasive as long as they are not unfair to either party. 

A pre-nuptial agreement will let both parties know where they stand and set out both parties intentions. You may be put off entering into an agreement due to the cost, however, investing funds now into a pre-nuptial agreement will save money, time and stress in the long run. Whatever the cost of your pre-nuptial agreement it will almost certainly be significantly less than arguing over the assets in the event the marriage breaks down.

The proper procedure to create a pre-nuptial agreement must be followed or it will not be upheld by a court, this will take some time, a pre-nuptial agreement must also be signed at least 3 clear weeks before the marriage takes place, this is a minimum and more time should be allowed if possible. It is important to contact a solicitor in plenty of time before the date of your marriage. The minimum amount of time I recommend is 3 months prior to the marriage, but once a date is set it would be sensible to begin the process.

If you have already married and are worried you have left it too late to enter into a pre-nuptial agreement then do not worry, you can enter into a post-nuptial agreement (which is essentially the same as a pre-nuptial agreement but entered into after marriage) and still protect your assets.

Contact out Family Law Team for further information