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Prenuptial Agreements on BBC Radio 4 You & Yours

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Earlier today I appeared on the popular Radio 4 magazine programme Your and Yours, to discuss the sometimes controversial topic of prenuptial agreements.

Popularly associated with Hollywood stars and the very wealthy, in such agreements couples with assets set down in black and white just who will get what in the event of a divorce – and do so, as the name implies, before the wedding has even taken place. Participants hope to avoid costly and acrimonious financial wrangling should the relationship fail.

Back in 2011, I wrote about this topic in the Yorkshire Post.

Currently prenups have no fixed status in UK law but recent reports have suggested they will be made legally binding under a draft bill to be published shortly by the Law Commission.

I travelled to the BBC studios in central Leeds to share my thoughts on this topic. Presenter Peter White told viewers: “Four in ten marriages end in divorce, often a traumatic and acrimonious experience. So who are prenups for, and could they be a good thing?”

The interview is currently available here if you missed the show (Marilyn’s section begins as 20:57)

Transcript from Marilyn Stowe on BBC Radio 4 – You and Yours

PW                         Peter White

MJS                        Marilyn Stowe

PW:                        Marilyn Stowe is the Senior Partner at Stowe Family Law and she also sits on the advisory panel at the Law Commission. Where does the law currently stand on prenuptial agreements?

MJS:                      Currently the law is, all property that belongs to either spouse is available for sharing on divorce.

PW:                        Regardless of what the prenuptial agreement might have said?

MJS:                      Regardless. However, increasingly, people who have contracted to determine what would happen in the event of a divorce, the contract; providing it has been done voluntarily, it has been done usually with the benefit of legal advice, there’s been full and frank disclosure and the provision is fairly reasonable, can expect those agreements to be upheld.

PW:                        So what are the benefits of having a prenup?

MJS:                      Well, I’m a bit ambivalent about them actually. I can understand the sense in doing a prenup if, for example, you are entering a second marriage; you’ve already been married, you’ve got children and you want to sort out inheritance and make sure that the children from the first marriage are provided for, I can understand that. Similarly, there may be people who inherit assets or are gifted assets by third parties who want those assets ring-fenced in the event of a marriage breaking down. But if I was one of two young people going into a marriage and hopeful that the marriage would last and if somebody was asking me to sign a document which was manifestly unfair, I don’t think I would marry that person.

PW:                        Right. Maybe you should know beforehand if they’re likely to impose an unfair agreement on you…

MJS:                      I have had experience of people who have been subject to unfair matrimonial contracts, some of them are from abroad; they sign up in a different country where these agreements are perfectly legal and binding and they come over here and many years later the marriage breaks down. I’ve never had an experience of a court upholding those agreements but increasingly there is pressure so that prenups can be fully legally binding.

PW:                        It seems that in the past there was a celebrity focus on them but is there evidence that more people, more straight-forward people who aren’t celebs or people who aren’t necessarily very rich are making prenuptial agreements?

MJS:                      They are. I think the concept of autonomy, the ‘we want to do what we want to do within a marriage’ is becoming much more popular. I think that women, the same as men or maybe even more than men, as there is more equality in a marriage I think that some couples will see the sense in trying to protect what’s theirs. In the event of a marriage breaking down they know where they stand and again, on the face of it, that is a perfectly good argument.

PW:                        Right, in a word, do you think they are going to be made legally binding?

MJS:                      I do.

PW:                        You do?

MJS:                      That’s my view. I don’t know for sure but I do think so.

PW:                        That was two words. You did very well there, Marilyn.

MJS:                      Thank you.

PW:                        Thank you very much indeed.

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known family law solicitors and divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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  1. annoymous says:

    Pre nups should be made mandatory under English Divorce Law. Why are pre nups always deemed only suitable for the rich and famous

    For example, a 47 year old brick layer earning 23k per year with 3 kids, with a wife earning 8k year part time would stand to lose massively if the assets he owned before the couple met where taken and given to the wife, along with his wife getting 65-75 of the assets earned during the marriage.

    Also child support payments would be made by the man in this situation also.

    The guy would face finanical ruin and would be broke for life wondering how he is going to feed himself an pay his electric bill.

    I d rather be a millionare footballer with 10 million in the bank, and then give my ex wife 5 million, than be the brick layer living in poverty after his divorce.

    With 5 million in the bank you can recover and rebuild your life

    Pre nups should protect the average person on the street

    Women generally after divorce have the chance of finding another man to support her financialy , where is this is most unlikely for men.

  2. JamesB says:

    I agree with annoymous’s post above.

  3. Stitchedup says:

    Spot in anonymous, it’s those with more modest assets(usually men) that face the prospect of a life of poverty post separation/divorce particularly if it happens during middle age.

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