Pre-nups ‘on the rise among middle-aged couples’

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Oct 31, 2017
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The agreements are most popular with people aged 30-45, a survey has found

Anthony Devlin/PA

Middle-aged couples are driving a boom in pre-nuptial agreements, a survey has found.

The majority of a group of leading divorce lawyers said that they had seen a rise in requests for the agreements, with nearly 45 per cent having completed seven or more in the past year. Some 13 per cent of lawyers claimed to have completed 16 or more in the past 12 months.

Only 4 per cent of the lawyers reported a reduction in the number of inquiries about the agreements.

Family law experts said that a landmark case from 2010 was driving the boom. In of Radmacher v Granatino, the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that it was right that pre-nuptial agreements should have decisive or compelling weight; and that it was for the spouse seeking to escape the terms of a nuptial agreement to show why it would be unfair to be held to it.

The lawyers claim that pre-nuptial agreements are most popular with those aged 31-45, according to the survey of lawyers from 25 firms that was commissioned by Forsters, the London practice.

“Wealth protection” was the main driver for most of the agreements, including a desire to protect assets acquired before marriage and assets inherited from family.

Other factors included pressure from third parties such as parents, children and trustees, and the protection of business interests.

“Whilst nuptial agreements now play a far greater role in the English family justice system, and are far more likely to be upheld than they were before the decision in Radmacher v Granatino, there is still not statutory footing for them,” Jo Edwards, a partner at Forster, said.

Three years ago the Law Commission of England and Wales backed legislating for pre-nuptial agreements so that they would be upheld provided certain safeguards were met, she said. 

It must be demonstrated that the agreements were not signed under duress, that legal advice was provided to each side, that there was a full and frank disclosure of each person’s finances before the agreement was signed and that, objectively, the agreement was fair, the commission said.

Edwards said: “It is only right that, with those safeguards in place, private agreements entered into by parties to a marriage should be respected by the court.  It is to be hoped that this is an area which policy-makers will look at soon.”

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