A pre-nup is often a subject of much mirth in the UK; a dinner party debate about the merits of pragmatism versus idealism. Considering what you might do in the event of a divorce with regards to your estate is of course very pragmatic, but the partner calling for the agreement has often been depicted as a tad mercenary.
The demand for prenuptial practicalities is on the rise, with one London company reporting a 50% rise in people inquiring about pre-nups. Evidence from CAFCASS supports these claims, with a 2% increase in Private Law demand between 2013 and 2014. This followed a 9% increase on the 2012/13 figure.
This upsurge could have been partly prompted by the Law Commission’s suggestion that a pre-marriage agreement should form part of the marriage reform, and that pre-nups should be given the kind of legal weight which they’re afforded in Scotland.
The question was thrust into the news in 2010 when renowned German heiress Katrin Radmacher’s pre-nup was upheld by the Supreme Court. Radmacher’s partner, Nicolas Granatino, had been part of a pre-nup which agreed that no claim would be made on each other’s assets. After changing his mind on this agreement and asking for a sizeable chunk of his former wife’s estate, the court substantially reduced his claim in accordance with the pre-nup.
The rising prominence of the prenuptial agreement probably reflects the times we live in. Divorce is much more commonplace, and whereas marriage probably still carries as much weight in terms of devotion, people recognise that they can drift apart and this doesn’t tend to carry the same social stigma as it did in the past. Add to this the fact that family life can now be very complicated with marriages then remarriages, and the complicated family ties which emerge as a by-product of these separations.
Family solicitors in London have said “We strongly recommend that couples consider a pre-nuptial agreement – especially if property is involved. Also with social media being an increasing presence in most of our lives it may not be that surprising that couples are now not only taking steps to protect their estate in an event of a divorce but also their online reputation by including a social media clause in their pre-nup.”
There’s also the fact that the way we earn money as couples has changed dramatically. Modern couples are often equal partners in terms of income, so why should one person have claim over any assets that were acquired before marriage.
The question will always be a great topic of debate with its conflicting moral and practical dimensions. Many couples who neglected to sign a pre-nup will rue their lack of forward planning, but when everything is rosy, why spoil the party by introducing a potential bone of contention.
Perhaps the pre-nup is not that far removed from making a Will; divorce and death are both pretty grim prospects, but few people would question the practicality of making a Will.