Are prenups becoming more acceptable?

More couples could make the decision to agree to a prenuptial agreement in the UK as the courts consider making the documents legally binding.

In the US, prenups are a common practice among couples where one partner might earn considerably more than the other.

However, in the UK, many people fail to sign a prenup before they get married, leading the country to earn the nickname the 'divorce capital of the world'.

This is because without a prenup, many marriages end with assets being split 50-50, encouraging many divorces to be filed in the UK, despite couples having only tenuous links to the country.

Couples who are concerned about their finances before marriage can still file a prenup as they can be considered by a judge in UK courts.

They can even cut the costs of a solicitor and write a DIY prenuptial agreements through Lawpack.

However, this could be set to change as the Law Commission has proposed a review into family law after more big-money divorce payouts have become the norm in the divorce courts.

It comes as the courts are deciding on the case of Katrin Radmacher, a German heiress worth £100 million who is fighting for her prenup to be honoured.

Sarah Anticoni, partner Charles Russell and a spokesperson for family law association Resolution, commented: "We are dealing with marriages from all over the world but where people choose to divorce here. That's where pre-marital agreements may have a real role to play – there are very few people these days who are both English, met here, married here, worked here, stay here.

"We have a much more fluid society – there's much more freedom of movement for work, for travel; and therefore we are often having to deal with things where one party is one nationality, the other is a completely different nationality, the party married in a third country and are living here. The family structure is more complex."

She noted that prenups will particularly benefit people who have inherited wealth or who are marrying for a second or third time.

It will also benefit wealthy people who want to protect their finances.

By making prenups legally binding, "it would give clarity and certainty where there are now grey areas" to the system, she said.

Changes in opinion of prenups over generations are evident, as a survey by law firm Mishcon de Reya recently revealed.

It found that men under the age of 45 who earn more than £100,000 a year are three times more likely to have a prenuptial agreement than those aged over 45, the Guardian reported.

This is partly because men in this age group have a difference in opinion over how their assets should be divided.

Two in five men under 45 years said they did not believe in an equal share of assets when they are the main provider.

However, figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that it should be older men who should be concerned about their marriage ending.

Over the next 25 years, it is predicted that the divorce rate of 35 and 44-year-olds will half, falling from 12 per cent in 2008 to six per cent in 2033.

In contrast, those aged 65 and over can expect the divorce rate to double over the same period of time, rising from eight per cent in 2008 to 15 per cent in 2033.

In an article for City Am, Barbara Reeves, a partner of Mishcon de Reya, urged men in financial professions to sign prenups, noting that while 40 per cent have considered one, only eight per cent have actually signed one.

"Prenups may be seen to undermine commitment, but really they should be seen as a kind of insurance against expensive and lengthy litigation," she wrote.

"Taking out insurance on your partner's life would not imply that you anticipated their early demise.

"Likewise, wanting a prenup does not mean that you want to or expect to divorce."

Posted by Morag Lyall

Published on: July 29, 2010

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