Weddings are all but out of the question for the time being, with current regulations requiring that ceremonies should only take place in exceptional circumstances, for example where one party is seriously ill and not expected to recover. Even then, weddings can only be attended by a maximum of 6 people, in Covid-secure venues or public outdoor spaces.
So, whilst many weddings this summer are likely to be put on hold, could the additional time available be an ideal opportunity to consider a prenuptial agreement? Often, couples contact their lawyers a few weeks before the big day, as they near the end of their wedding preparations, without appreciating that the process of entering into a prenuptial agreement (“prenup”) should ideally start several months in advance. The lack of time before the wedding ceremony can put unnecessary pressure on the couple, and lead to increased costs, due to the couple having to, additionally, enter into a postnuptial agreement (“postnup”) within the first few months of marriage.
In this article, our matrimonial lawyer Carolyn Bottomley explain why you should consider a prenup before getting hitched and what happens to your agreement if your wedding is postponed due to COVID-19.
Why should preparations begin early?
Here are some of the reasons:
- Prenups should be signed a minimum of 28 days before the wedding ceremony, to avoid any suggestion that one of you has been put under undue pressure to enter into the agreement.
- You need to disclose to each other details of your assets, debts and income, to ensure you are both aware of each other’s finances at an early stage and to avoid any surprises further down the line.
- Discussing the terms of the agreement, such as how assets are to be held during the marriage and whether you will have a joint bank account can take time and needs to be managed sensitively. To save costs, it is best to discuss the broad terms of the agreement between yourselves before contacting your lawyers to prepare an initial draft.
- Parents of one of the couple can often be the drivers of the agreement and time and tact is required to ensure everyone feels comfortable with the outcome of the negotiations.
- Each of you is required to take independent legal advice about the effect of the terms of the agreement before signing it. If you are the one who suggested the prenup, you might want to offer to pay for your fiancé’s lawyer as well as your own.
Having ample time to discuss important issues, such as your financial expectations of the marriage and what you both want to share, as well as protect should your marriage break down, can really benefit a couple. It encourages openness and sets the tone for honest, clear communication which can be fundamental for a successful marriage.
What about after the wedding?
Whilst it is better to sign a prenup before the wedding ceremony, you can sign a postnup after you are married and this can provide the same financial protection. Bear in mind, however, that it is inherently more difficult to ask your fiancé to sign a postnup after the big day when you are both enjoying life as newlyweds!
What if the wedding is postponed again?
Prenups typically state that the wedding ceremony should take place within 12 months of signing; however, it is a relatively simple matter to extend this time period.
But I thought prenups were not legally binding in the UK anyway?
Prenups are now an everyday part of many family lawyers’ workload and if the document is drafted by a specialist family lawyer and adheres to certain requirements, you should expect to be held to the terms of the agreement, as long as it is fair and provides for both parties’ needs.
The law in this area, however, is constantly evolving. It is therefore important to bear in mind that the law relating to prenups may be subject to further clarification by future decisions of the superior courts or may be the subject of legislation passed during the course of your marriage.
Does having a prenup mean we think that our marriage will fail at the outset?
No. Of course you both hope and intend that your marriage will last and that you will grow old together, but it is loving and caring to ensure that you protect each other financially and what you have built either before or during your marriage or acquired from family through gifts or inheritances. Perhaps one of you or your parents have been through a difficult divorce and are all too aware of how costly this can be, both emotionally and financially. Setting out what will happen were your marriage to break down should ensure fewer arguments about financial arrangements upon divorce and save you significant legal fees.
Think of it like an insurance policy. You hope not to have to rely on it, but it is reassuring to know that it is there should you ever need it.
My fiancé and I would like to consider a prenup. What now?
It is important to speak to a family lawyer that specialises in prenups. They will be able to fully consider your unique situation and goals before you enter into the agreement.
If you have any questions on the points raised in the article, please contact Carolyn Bottomley.
This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.