A pre-nuptial agreement (or a pre-nup) has long been associated with the rich and famous, in particular A-list stars or celebrities looking to protect their staggering wealth in the event of an often inevitable marriage breakdown.
But in recent times, it's not just those with eye-popping bank account figures that are demanding a pre-nup agreement prior to getting wed. An increasing number of people are recognizing the benefits of this agreement, even if they aren't rich or famous. In fact, research suggests that some legal businesses in England and Wales have seen a 50% increase in pre-nup enquiries in the last year alone.
One of the biggest factors for pre-nups soaring is the way marriage has changed. More people are getting married later in life, whether for the first time or the second or even third time. Long gone are the days when childhood sweethearts married young and stayed together for the rest of their lives. Many of us have also shed the outdated romantic, fairytale notion of marriage and accepted that they can – and do – fall apart.
This shift in marriage patterns and attitudes has meant that by the time we're going down the aisle, many of us will have already amassed assets that we want to protect for ourselves or our children, in the event of a marriage collapse.
These assets could be what we have earned over the years, or gained from a previous relationship or family inheritance. People may have also earned income from compensation due to an injury or a work tribunal claim. Protecting assets by taking out a pre-nup agreement can help to prevent any messy and unfair complications that can result if a couple separate and get divorced, often leaving one party financially vulnerable and stripping future provision away for any offspring.
Although pre-nups are not yet legally binding in the UK, they are being taken more seriously and are usually fully effective in a court of law if a marriage does disintegrate. Only in rare circumstances, such as if the agreement is considered unfair or if one party signed the pre-nup under pressure, will a court not comply with the arrangement.
Growing confidence in the validity of pre-nup arrangements may also be down to the Law Commission calling for legislation to formalize a 'qualifying nuptial agreement', where couples can legally decide how to split their assets, should they get divorced.