‘Pre-nuptials’ are likely to become norm

First published in Farming

THE thought of having a pre-nuptial agreement has often been considered unromantic – but the prospect of them becoming the norm in English society has become distinctly more likely and may help to protect important assets such as your farm.

When farming couples decide to separate the implications run deeper than in many divorces. It’s often the case that the farming business has been in the family of one of the spouses for a number of generations, and there may still be other family members with a direct interest in the farm.

Little wonder, then, that divorces involving a farming business can be emotive and acrimonious, and that the impact can have a lasting effect on those involved.

However, the Law Commission’s recent report recommending the introduction of legislation would make pre-nups legally binding – providing they meet specific requirements – helping to protect the farm and its assets in the event of divorce.

Already, a series of decisions emanating from senior judges have seen an increase in the popularity of ‘pre-nups’, particularly in cases involving second marriages – where one or both of the parties have already experienced the vagaries of divorce – or where individuals want to protect a particular asset, such as the family business, an existing inheritance or future inheritance prospects.

This coincides with the publication of statistics showing that divorce continues to rise: two in five marriages will now end in divorce, and over half of breakups occur within the first ten years of marriage.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that more and more couples see the benefits of having a pre-nuptial agreement – agreed when there are common objectives for the future, rather than run the risk of family assets being lost to an embittered spouse in hotly contested and costly divorce proceedings.

Although the Law Commission report is only a recommendation, the great likelihood is that it will reach the statute book before too long, and couples who might previously have discounted a pre-nup because the Court may have ignored it will be much more confident about the agreement being legally binding.

While it’s unlikely that having a pre-nup will ever become as routine as ordering the wedding flowers, there’s little doubt that we will see a seismic shift in attitudes towards these agreements in years to come.

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