Are Pre-Nuptial Agreements Legal in England and Wales?

Pre-nuptial agreements, or pre-nups, are growing in popularity. They are often a feature of high profile, celebrity or high net worth divorces and discussed in the media. However, in England and Wales they are not legally binding. This can come as a surprise to divorcing couples who have signed a pre-nup.

Should you still get a pre-nup?

Even though pre-nups are not legally binding, there may still be occasions when you should sign one. For anyone who has high net value assets may consider it, or if you want to protect any inheritance for your children or other family members. Another common reason for signing a pre-nup is if a person’s parents have financially contributed to their home ownership and want to protect their investment. Although pre-nups are not legally binding, they do still carry some weight in court and judges may use them as a guide when reaching a decision.

When will judges ignore a pre-nup?

Judges can choose to ignore a pre-nup at their discretion, but it will definitely be ignored if they believe that one person has been coerced into signing it, or if one person did not understand what they were signing. In these cases, a judge will not consider the pre-nup at all.

How to increase the chances of a pre-nup being adhered to

There are ways in which you can increase the chances of your pre-nup being followed should your divorce go to court. Firstly, you should write it with the help of a specialist family solicitor and sign it in their presence. This will help to persuade the judge that both parties signed it freely and in full knowledge of what it says.

Secondly, you should make your pre-nup reasonable. Understand how divorces are normally settled in the UK and put together a pre-nup that will reflect that. If a pre-nup is unreasonable and very one-sided, then a judge in the family court is likely to ignore it.