A Pre-marital Agreement or Pre-nuptial Agreement is a written agreement made between two people who intend to get married or enter into a civil partnership. These agreements are now becoming more popular than ever before because couples wish to formally set out and regulate what they wish to happen in relation to their finances if the relationship breaks down and they separate.
Prenuptial agreements are very common in some European jurisdictions and in the USA and are regularly enforced by the courts in those jurisdictions.However you need to know that although these agreements are now becoming much more popular and more common prenuptial agreements are not yet legally binding under English law.English courts do however take any existing prenuptial agreement into consideration providing that there have been no significant events such as very serious illness or the birth of children of the family and provided also that the agreements meet the following criteria namely:
- The parties have both had completely separate and independent legal advice.
- The parties have both made a very full and frank disclosure of their respective financial positions to each other and
- There has been no pressure or undue influence brought to bear by one party in order to compel the other party to enter into the agreement.
If you are considering an agreement it is always prudent for you to seek advice as soon as you possibly can and certainly well before your intended marriage or civil partnership ceremony.
When considering a division of assets the court always has an obligation to consider all the relevant circumstances of your case and to decide what is fair and reasonable and it is a matter for the courts discretion as to what if any weight it gives to completed agreements. However there is no doubt that pre-nuptial agreements are becoming more and more relevant to decisions made by English courts. At the very least, providing all the proper pre-agreement criteria have been met, then the fact of the existence of an agreement acts as a starting point for the court particularly if your circumstances have not changed very much or if the relationship has been a very short one.