Don't mention the pre-nup

When you get married the last thing you think about is the divorce.

By Editor
February 20, 2012, 2:34 pm
Don't mention the pre-nup

When Catherine Zeta-Jones married Michael Douglas, she arranged in a pre-nup that, if they broke up, she'd get £1.7 million for every year of marriage, plus a £3.1 million bonus if he is caught cheating.

Some of you Sex in the City fans may also remember Trey springing a pre-nup on Charlotte late in the wedding process.

Although it took her by surprise, after all it’s not the most romantic of propositions; she did agree that in the eventuality of a divorce she would receive $1million.

A very smart move some may consider – but is it really worth it? Have times changed so much that soon after getting engaged, you need to be meeting with lawyers to discuss who’s going to get what if you split and that’s even before you walk down the aisle?

Well one Manchester lawyer believes if you’re going into a marriage and you’ve got assets, then it’s the smart thing to do.

And you don’t necessarily have to be a celebrity or a multi-millionaire either to get one.

Lisa Kemp (pictured), head of family law at Kuits Solicitors, is an expert on pre-nuptial agreements.

“There are a number of reasons why people choose to go down this road,” she says.

“Sometimes it’s what the family wants. Families might say they have no objection to the marriage but they’ll have the full blessing if the couple are prepared to protect themselves.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be an imbalance in terms of assets either. People who have pre-nups are not necessarily in a situation where one has money and the other doesn’t.

“They could both actually have money in their own right or though their families and still have a pre-nup to protect what they’ve got and what they’re bringing into the marriage and then to record that anything they have in a joint basis is split 50/50, s at least they know when the marriage breaks down they go out with what they put in.

“It provides people with security.”

She says there’s a misconception that it’s only footballers or hot shot businessmen who are going to have a prenup to protect them, but more and more women are choosing pre-nups.

In the last month Lisa has already represented three women who are negotiating pre-nups.

“Fifty per cent of women who are requesting pre-nups have been married before,” said Lisa.

“They just want to protect themselves, but also more women are marrying a lot later in life like in their 30s, some of them have acquired assets in that time, they’ve worked hard, have got savings and investments, or bought property that have equity in, they’re not super rich, but all they’re doing is they’re protecting what they are putting in so that if it does end they don’t leave with nothing.”

Pre-nups have also gained more awareness thanks to high profile celebrities but there’s still the perception that the agreements will not be valid in court.

As the law stands in England and Wales, prenuptial agreements are not legally binding, however, following the case of German heiress Karin Radmacher and her ex-husband Nicolas Granatino, a pre-nup does now have to be looked at by the courts and factored into any divorce agreement.

Judges in this case found in favour of the 40-year-old German heiress Katrin Radmacher, who had sought to protect her £106 million fortune in the eventuality of a marriage breakdown.

Radmacher and her French ex-husband, Nicolas Granatino, 38, a former investment banker, had signed a prenuptial agreement before their wedding in London in 1998. The agreement stipulated that neither party would benefit financially if the marriage ended.

Lisa says: “If it’s done properly and you follow a certain criteria, the court will look at it and make the right decision.”

Bringing up a pre-nup into a conversation with the other half is also never easy says Lisa.

Couple’s might have been thinking about it, but are nervous about talking about I, after all it’s not exactly romantic.

Lisa said: “I’ve found that people who have been married before find it much easier to approach the subject, they’ve been through a divorce already so know what to expect and approach the new relationship in a different way and can have a more pragmatic discussion.

“The difficulty is with first timers who have probably got an inheritance or assets they want to protect.

“Women in particularly can live in a fairy tale land and don’t want to have that discussion because everyone hopes that when they get married it’s for one time only, it is tricky but marriage is a contract within itself and within that comes financial claims.

“Once you’re married you have  financial claims against each other, that’s a fact it’s not what lawyers say to make money, it’s what happens. And if the other person turns round and says no, then you have to question why?”

To make the agreements more official both parties must be represented by lawyers who work together to come up with an agreement, often through discussion with each client sat together so that both parties are happy with the pre-nup agreement.

“It’s not a long drawn out affair with letters going back and forth. We all work closely together and often sit in discussions to work out the details. It’s very informal,” says Lisa.

“Every couple is different. It’s important to accept that if you are considering one, that you are different, you’re relationship is not the same as everyone else’s, and it’s either going to be an easy conversation to have or it’s going to be a difficult one, and lawyers can’t advice about how to put it on the table.”

Lisa, who admits that she too would have a pre-nup, added: “Pre-nups don’t have to be an unromantic affair; if you've purchased a flat and have paid into a mortgage there is nothing wrong with wanting to protect that if it’s what you came into the marriage with. Having a properly drafted agreement can help avoid a messy divorce.”

But one thing is for sure, any collaboration between two people irrespective of their gender will inevitably lead to an element of dissension, such is human nature. It’s complicated!

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