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Legal status for pre-nuptial agreements welcomed

By The Citizen  |  Posted: February 27, 2014

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MARRIED couples who want to split up could do so, having legally agreed divorce terms before even tying the knot.

Law Commission proposals, to enshrine pre-nuptial agreements in law alongside do-it-yourself divorces based on a financial calculator, are aimed at making divorce proceedings cheaper and easier.

Solicitors believe they will become more common, particularly with people married a second time who want to protect assets and money for their children.

The law change, if the Government opts for it, would apply to couples in England and Wales.

Currently, married couples and those in civil partnerships can make a pre-nuptial agreement between them but they are not always upheld in court.

Pre-nuptial agreements were unheard of when Val and Adrian Riddiford tied the knot almost 50 years ago - and given her dislike of football and his chairmanship of the English Schools Football Association, it’s maybe just as well they weren’t.

“It wasn’t something we would have done,” said Mrs Riddiford, from Amberley, near Stroud.

“I am not involved in the football so much now but back in the early days I used to make the teas, wash the kit and with the FA, I would go along and have lunch.

“It’s about finding common ground.”

Pre-nuptial agreements have legal status in other countries, including Scotland.

Divorce calculators are used in Canada where finances can be carved up online.

Helen Cankett, an associate solicitor in the family department at BPE Solicitors in Cheltenham has welcomed the news about a possible change in the law for pre-nuptial agreements.

“Increasingly over the last few years we have seen an increase in requests for pre-nuptial agreements from couples intending on tying the knot. “Unfortunately, due to the current law, we have to advise that such agreements do not have to be taken into account by the divorce court.

“The recommendation from the Law Commission today that pre-nuptial agreements should be legally binding is a very welcome step for couples who wish to add a degree of certainty to how their assets would be treated, should things go wrong at some point in the future.

“At the moment, couples entering into such agreements cannot automatically enforce them if their relationship breaks down as the court retains the overall ability to make financial orders.

“This often results in orders which may not reflect what a couple originally agreed.

“The recommendation aims to change that position and it will now be for the Government to consider the recommendation and change the law if it sees fit.”

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