Does the pre-nuptial agreement mean the end for romance?

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  • | by Adair Cameron

Whilst many couples marry with the intention of a promise for life, the reality is that one in three marriages ends in divorce. A pre-nuptial agreement is designed to protect the assets people bring to a marriage, such as inheritance, property or a business, ensuring anything owned prior to a marriage remains the individual’s property should a divorce ensue. It also allows couples to make decisions about how any wealth created during the marriage should be divided if the worst happens.

Pre-nuptial agreements have previously been the preserve of the wealthy, but there has been an increase in uptake from couples with more modest incomes too. Family law solicitor Kathryn McTaggart of legal practice Woolley & Co says: "there has been a marked increase in pre-nuptial agreements taken out over the last five years. With many couples marrying later on in their lives, more often than not they bring homes and businesses into a marriage; they are keen to protect these assets. Also couples perhaps choosing to marry for the second time may look to protect themselves and their existing children from the financial fallout of a divorce."

A pre-nuptial arrangement stipulates that couples are open and honest about how much money or debt they have when entering into the marriage. It ensures an understanding of the financial situation the respective parties bring to a relationship.

In relationships where pre-nuptials are not in place, separations can result in court judgements making decisions about how assets may be divided. This can end up giving one partner significant advantage over the other. The Court has a wide discretion in relation to the orders it can make and people are often surprised that financial contributions are only one of many factors that the Court consider when making these orders.

On the other hand, if the legal documentation of a pre-nuptial was to be in place and both sides abide by the agreement, the divorce procedure would be less likely to involve court proceedings, and incur a considerably smaller cost.

Whilst pre-nuptial agreements may seem unromantic, they reflect a logical approach to partnership. Financial experts suggest they are a sign of a mutual respect and a display of honesty from the outset. According to Kathryn, couples continue to enter into marriage as a lifelong commitment but they are also determined not to remain in a marriage that isn’t working; "A pre-nup allows couples to make decisions about providing for each other when they still have each other’s best interests at heart. And so if the worst happens and the fairy-tale does crumble, the legally binding agreement allows couples to separate more swiftly, with less financial disruption and pain," she says.

For couples considering entering into a pre-nuptial agreement, Kathryn would advise each party to take legal advice and take time over the agreement; it should be well considered, not an afterthought a few days before the wedding. Couples should also make full and frank financial disclosure and factor in regular reviews; a pre-nuptial agreement should be regularly updated, particularly when a relationship involves children.

And for couples who decide to protect their assets after getting wed, the less well-known agreement, the post-nuptial may be an alternative. A post-nuptial can be entered into at any stage during a marriage.

Like the pre-nuptial agreement, the aim of a post-nuptial is to make a separation simpler. Of course, both pre- and post-nuptial agreements can’t guarantee a hassle free divorce and they certainly cannot ease the emotional strain but they can take the financial stress away from a time when emotions and feelings are rife.

But for the many couples who enjoy and long and happy marriage, the pre-nuptial is simply a formality, something in the background that simply serves as a safety net that remains in place ‘til death do we part.

Is true love lost amongst the credit card bills and tax returns?

It’s predicted that consumers will be spending £1.6 billion on Valentine’s gifts including chocolates, flowers and jewellery.

Yet this year, reducing personal debt is high on the agenda for lots of people. As a consequence, generous purchases and ostentatious displays have given way to more considered, careful purchases. For instance, head of marketing at Clogau Gold, Welsh jewellery company, Ken Jones says that sales are down. “People are spending 30 per cent less than they were this time last year,” he says.

Hotel Chocolat, the British chocolatier also reports that its more modestly priced Valentines gifts are proving more popular than its high-end range.

Even the department stores are getting in on the ‘gestures over extravagancies’ trend with John Lewis launching ‘Letters of Love’ workshops, helping those star-crossed Romeos (or Juliets) create the perfect love letter for their partners. Perhaps this goes to show that novelty love isn’t all. The trips to Paris and dramatic dozens are perhaps too gaudy for today’s couples. Instead, the more considered and economically friendly gestures are proving to be more popular.