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Bishop condemns prenuptial agreements by Cameron Paterson

Prenuptial agreements – ‘prenups’ – are always, perhaps, going to be a hot button issue, provoking water cooler debate and gut reaction. For many, they conjure up images of overbearing spouses-to-be fast-talking their less wealthy partners into restrictive agreements that may not be in their best interests.

It all depends on your point of view I suppose. If you are someone lucky enough to own substantial amounts of money, property or other assets, contemplating marriage, I’m sure it makes perfect sense to try and protect those assets before the big day.

Not unlike taking out travel insurance before driving to the airport.

The problem with this picture, of course, is that it is almost always the wealthier partner who holds the most away in relationships and has the readiest access to legal representation. English law has to date not followed the lead of the US and other countries and made prenups legally binding. Such agreements retain an uncertain status in law and the amount of weight given to them by the divorce courts depends wholly on the particular circumstances of each case.

There have been reports of late that this situation may change, and that a pending report from the Law Commission will recommend that prenups be recognised in law.

Perhaps the commonest reaction to the concept of the prenup, however, is that they are just not very romantic. Many people instinctively feel that marriage should prioritise heart over head and be an emotional leap into the unknown. From this point of view, contemplating failure and divorce with a formal legal agreement before you have even tied the knot seems opposed to the whole spirit of marriage.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury has taken this very stance. According to a new report in the Mail, the Right Reverend Mark Davies believes giving prenups legal standing would erode the institution of marriage. He declared:

“Our society would be proposing to couples seeking marriage that they prepare their own divorce settlement before making the life-long promises of marriage. It is a legal provision which would surely empty the words of the marriage promise for “better for worse… to love and to cherish till death do we part” of all meaning.”

The bishop added:

“Pre-nuptial agreements would render these promises provisional by the legal preparations which anticipate divorce. We must ask ourselves, what message does this send to couples considering marriage? What message does this send to the young at a moment when the institution of marriage stands at such a historically, low ebb?”

For many in 21st Century secular Britain, the Right Rev will seem a remote and irrelevant figure. But I think many will share his sentiments on the prenup, whether or not they are Catholics or even religious. Does contemplating divorce before you have even gotten married rob the ceremony of any emotional meaning? If you want to marry, should heart rule head or head rule heart?

Cameron Paterson is a journalist with an interest in legal matters. He has edited the Marilyn Stowe Blog since August 2012.    

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Stitchedup says:

    The good Bishop needs to get real!! the divorce rate is now so high it is bordering on the irresponsible not to take precautions to protect any assets you may have. Divorce is positively encouraged in this country, we see articles all the time encouraging people (women in particular) to call time on their marriages/relationships if their dreams aren’t being met.

    I would positively encourage my sons to take out prenups if they manage to accumulate any assets. Unfortunately, any start in life I had worked towards and hoped to give them has been wiped out by their mother with the support and blessing of the family courts.

  2. Luke says:

    I think the arguments against pre-nups are nonsensical, nobody has to get married, it is not compulsory or in any way a requirement to function in society.

    If you think that you are not getting a fair deal then don’t marry ! What we are talking about with pre-nups is INFORMED CONSENT, and I don’t accept that there is a reasonable argument against that – including the romantic one – if you cannot even agree on a pre-nup what does that say about your relationship ?

    “For many in 21st Century secular Britain, the Right Rev will seem a remote and irrelevant figure.”

    People are breaking the vows he worries about on a massive scale anyway – and having read some of the views of Mark Davies I think I would replace ‘For Many’ with ‘For most’ in the above sentence…

  3. JamesB says:

    Taking a leap of faith with regards to allowing your life to be in the hands of the Judges of the English and Welsh law courts is crazy. If he were talking about Scotland then it might be a different matter. Its like asking a drunk high person to land the plane. I know young men lined up 100 years ago to do their duty, but at least they had a greater chance of survival.

  4. JamesB says:

    Family Law courts of England and Wales that is. Wrt criminal law, I don’t have experience of that, despite how the family courts seemed to regard me.

  5. Andrew says:

    He is sworn off marriage and also off seeking to accumulate worldly assets. Nor sure he knows too much about it.

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