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Would you sign a prenup if asked?

Prenups could become commonplace if new proposals are adopted. But would signing one doom your marriage to failure before it's begun?

Wedding cake with bride and groom on top

Until now, pre-nuptial agreements have been seen as the preserve of celebrity couples, aristocrats or rich bankers.

Prenups are typically designed to protect the wealthier partner in a marriage against losing too much money if their union ends in divorce.

But now the Law Commission wants this kind of arrangement to be more readily available to the man - and woman - in the street.

Call for prenups to be legally binding

As part of a number of proposals to make it easier to understand how financial assets are split upon divorce, the Commission wants prenups to become legally binding in England and Wales.

This would apply to civil partnerships as well as marriage.

At present, pre-nuptial agreements can be entered into, but there is no obligation on the courts to recognise them.

So if a man signed a prenup renouncing all claims to his rich wife's fortune if they divorced, currently a judge could legitimately ignore the agreement if it was regarded as unfair.

Prenups 'becoming more commonplace'

Professor Elizabeth Cooke is the Law Commissioner for property, family and trust law.

She says: "Pre- and post-nuptial agreements are becoming more commonplace but the courts will not always follow them.

"Lawyers are therefore not able to give clear advice about their effect.

"Qualifying nuptial agreements would give couples autonomy and control, and make the financial outcome of separation more predictable."

Prenups tackle imbalance in wealth

Professor Cooke adds that the Commission's proposals have safeguards to ensure neither divorcing party is left in hardship as a result of signing a prenup.

Prenups might appear to make more sense when there is an imbalance in wealth between two partners.

So, for example, if one already owns their own home and doesn't want to risk losing it if the marriage fails.

But an agreement like this can make the process of divorce much less stressful even if both spouses have a roughly equal level of assets.

For even the most lovestruck couple, a prenup is certainly worth considering when you look at divorce statistics.

The most recent Office for National Statistics figures show that 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in a break-up.

Prenups: Romance vs reality

Wedding ring beside a fake broken heart

Sensible they might be, but prenups are certainly not romantic.

How many fiancés or fiancées would be having second thoughts if their other half brought up the subject of divorce before they had even tied the knot?

But Sarah Pennells, founder of from money website Savvy Woman says that couples need to face up to reality.

"Pre-nuptial agreements definitely are not romantic and I can understand why many couples shy away from making them,” Pennells says.

"However, the reality is that over one in three marriages will end in divorce and at the moment there's a lot of uncertainty about how a couple's assets will be divided."

Think about finances at the start

Scotland is an exception, she adds, as here the assets built up during a marriage are usually divided 50:50 by the courts upon divorce.

"But more couples should think about having a prenup and should consider it as no more than an insurance policy.

"You don't buy home insurance expecting to be flooded out or to have a fire, but it's nice to know it's there if the worst happens."

The fact is that the start of a marriage is the best time to consider these problems, Pennells adds.

"It's much better for couples to think about how they will divide what they own while they like each other than when they are getting divorced."

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Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris



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