You might associate pre-nups with celebs, but they can be a sensible option for us normies too. Katie Bletcher investigates…
According to Katy Macfarlane, a senior teaching fellow at Edinburgh University’s Law School, pre-nups were used in Scotland as far back as the 19th century if one party was considerably wealthier than the other. “The law changed and the need for ˜ante-nuptial’ agreements diminished,” she says. “However, they have come back into fashion.”
Katy says while they are not purely the preserve of the rich and famous they are still not commonplace in typical marriages in Scotland, but tend to be used where one party enters the relationship owning considerably more than the other.
These days though, according to Michaela Hinchin, senior associate and family law specialist with Glasgow-based Family Law Matters LLP, agreements really are for everyone.
“People are mostly protecting a piece of money or a house that they owned prior to the marriage,” she says. “You have to ask yourself why would you not have one? The price of divorce outweighs the price of a pre-nup.”
In fact drawing up an agreement may only set you back a few hundred pounds.
In Scotland they are legally binding contracts. They must be fair and reasonable at the time of entering into the agreement and each party must have had the opportunity to seek consultation. Crucially, no one should have been under pressure to sign “ no shotgun pre-nups here.
HAVING THE CHAT
So why bother? “Most lawyers would say it’s a sensible and logical way to deal with a potentially emotional and difficult time that may or may not happen,” explains Katy. “If you’ve previously agreed on what will happen to the wealth beforehand, it avoids a lot of extra stress and heartache.”
Pre-nups can be used to ringfence family money or cash one of you is due to inherit in the future and can also protect assets for children from previous relationships.
And while the very thought of discussing a pre-nup with your other half may have your toes curling, there are ways to bring it up. “People think it’s not very loving or romantic to discuss it but you can make it part of the conversation when you’re talking about buying a house together or setting up bank accounts,” advises Michaela.
Katy agrees. “Be realistic, be prepared. It doesn’t mean that you love the other person any less, or that you believe the marriage or civil partnership is doomed to fail.”
Finally, it’s important to seek professional help when drawing up a contract. “Don’t do it yourselves, don’t dabble,” warns Michaela. “Get an experienced family lawyer to do it as you need it to stand up.”