Prenuptial Agreements: Unromantic?
22 OCT 2023
Since the summer of 2023, Britney Spears’s divorce proceedings have been attracting significant media attention. Her estranged husband, who initially joked about Britney’s prenuptial agreement, was only entitled to $1M from Britney’s $60M fortune as a result of their 14-months marriage.
Prenuptial agreements, commonly referred to as prenups, are contracts that couples enter into prior to their marriage to protect their assets or even confidential information, as in Britney Spears’s case.
In recent years, prenuptial agreements have witnessed a notable rise in popularity in the UK. In light of this, in this blog we will be discussing the advantages and disadvantages of prenups.
What Is the Status of Prenups in the UK?
In the UK, prenuptial agreements are not automatically binding. However, over the years, as the popularity of these agreements has increased, courts have started to give them more weight. Accordingly, where the agreement was entered into freely with full financial disclosure and independent legal advice as to rights parties were giving up and signed in good time before the wedding date, courts are more likely to uphold such prenup in the event of a divorce.
Therefore, although they may not appear legally binding, provided that these agreements do not cause unfairness to either party, they can be enforceable.
However, if the prenup was entered into in particular, under fraudulent circumstances, under duress or if the agreement puts one party into financial disadvantage or parties’ circumstances have significantly changed due to, for instance birth of a child, the agreement can be challenged. Moreover, if one party argues that they were unaware of the rights they were giving up or did not understand the terms of the agreement, the prenup can also be challenged.
Pros of Having a Prenup
Prenups Are For Everyone
These agreements are not exclusively for famous or wealthy individuals with significant assets prior the marriage. They offer both parties a clearer understanding of each other’s financial expectations and potentially cutting the cost of divorce proceedings in the future.
Not only Assets but Also Debts
Prenuptial agreements not only safeguard one party’s assets from the other, but also serve to shield one party from the financial liabilities of the other. This aspect of prenups is particularly vital where one party either possesses or foresees having significant debts so they prefer not to burden their spouse with them in the event of a divorce.
The Reality of Divorce
No couple thinks about divorce or asset division while preparing for a wedding. However, reality should not be ignored. A well-drafted prenuptial agreement can significantly cut parties’ legal costs in case of a divorce and sometimes expedite legal proceedings.
When drafting prenuptial agreements, parties have complete freedom to determine their own terms, unlike the standard rules that apply during divorce proceedings. This flexibility allows couples to tailor their agreement in a way that would respect each parties’ lifestyle.
While it is unlikely that the disadvantages of having prenuptial agreements would outweigh the advantages, there are some common drawbacks that prevent couples from entering into a prenuptial agreement prior marriage.
Cons of Having a Prenup
Doubt over the Relationship
Even the mere discussion of a prenuptial agreement can trigger sentiments of mistrust among parties. People often think that no journey should began by casting a shadow of doubt.
Change in Circumstances
As explained above, when there is a significant change in the parties’ circumstances, for instance, arrival of children or just a change in financial status, the prenuptial agreement can be challenged. In line with this ground of challenge, the terms of the prenuptial agreement may no longer be a reflection of the current circumstances of the couple.
Legal Advice is Crucial
Considering the non-binding nature of prenuptial agreements in the UK, seeking independent legal advice during the drafting process is very crucial. Parties entering into prenuptial agreements are on the brink of marriage, therefore, when drafting an agreement, it is important to avoid creating an unhealthy situation for their relationship. At the same time, it is normal to allow for points of disagreements to arise. In light of this context, it is important to create a collaborative environment with an objective perspective. Seeking legal advice would be the most suitable solution to achieve this.
Although drafting such an agreement can be costly, it is likely to minimise costs in potential future legal battles. It should be reminded that where the agreement is reasonably drafted with independent legal advice, the chances of it becoming enforceable multiply. Furthermore, the advice of a solicitor will minimise the number of unforeseen future scenarios.
Contact Barnes Law to find out how their expert team in family law can assist you in your matter.
Yulia BarnesManaging Partner
Yulia Barnes is our Managing Partner. She is an experienced solicitor and advises on a wide range of contentious and non-contentious matters for both private and corporate clients.Yulia started her legal career at a large international Magic Circle firm. She then became a partner at a regional law firm and headed a Dispute Resolution Department. She then moved in-house before starting her own Boutique practice, Barnes Law, with the aim of providing exclusive services to high net-worth individuals and privately-owned businesses. More details can be found on her LinkedIn profile.
Expertise Yulia and her team are widely recognised for their professional and practical approach to matters. She is committed to ensuring that her clients’ objectives are achieved in the most cost-effective way possible.
Approach Yulia has a wealth of experience working with businesses of all sizes: from large multinational corporations to start-ups. She has particular expertise in a hospitality industry, investment funds, private and corporate clients, and focuses on startups and technology-driven companies. Yulia brings the same level of attention to detail, professionalism and a personal touch to every case and client, and truly immerses herself in her clients’ businesses. She prides herself on her problem-solving, commercially astute approach and her track record of partnering with clients to help them achieve their strategic objectives.
Will joined Barnes Law as an Associate Solicitor in Spring 2023, shortly after qualifying in September 2022.
Will works mostly on real estate and corporate/commercial matters. Will enjoys providing advice on transactional matters.
Away from the office, Will can be found reading or playing golf. While he played rugby until university, and rowed throughout his degree, he now tends to watch both from the sidelines. During the winter he can also be found skiing.
Will plans to continue developing his legal skills and experience at Barnes Law, under the expertise and guidance provided by Yulia.
Mark is an experienced solicitor whose practice areas include intellectual property (IP), IT, data protection and general commercial law.
Mark advises businesses of all sizes – from sole traders to corporations. Among his clients are: clothing and lifestyle brands, restaurants and food suppliers, IT companies, banks, hedge funds and venture capital firms, education providers, medical and pharmaceutical brands.
Outside of his practice, Mark also advises members of the Institute of Directors as part of its Directors’ Advisory Service.
- Prosecuting a UK trademark application on behalf of an education provider and representing them in related UK IPO opposition and revocation proceedings;
- Advising a publisher and a delivery business on data protection matters, B2B and B2C Ts & Cs of sale, website and app Ts & Cs, all aspects of global brand protection;
- Advising footwear brands, alternative asset managers and hedge funds on their global brand protection, including overcoming various refusals, representing them in opposition proceedings and settlement negotiations;
- Representing a central bank in opposition proceedings before the UK IPO;
- Advising a lifestyle brand concerning trademark clearance and protection, negotiations for a website/app development and maintenance agreement.
Ioulia TatawatFamily Law Adviser
Ioulia has a solid background in family law and offers guidance, clarity, and support to clients during one of their most challenging times in their life.
She advises on all three pillars of separation: divorce, children matters and financial settlements. Ioulia is a member of Resolution and is keen to try to settle matters at early stages.
Ioulia is dedicated to assisting clients and navigating them through their legal matters with clarity and support.
Alex joined Barnes Law in September 2023 after finishing his master’s degree in law. Prior to joining Barnes Law, Alex worked in property litigation at Ashfords. Alex assists Yulia on a variety of both contentious and non-contentious matters.
Outside of the office, Alex enjoys reading and hiking. Prior to working in law, Alex was a competitive tennis player.
Alex continues to develop his skills in legal practice under Yulia’s guidance, he plans to sit the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exams (SQE) in 2024.
Mehves joined Barnes Law in August 2023, right after graduating from Queen Mary, University of London (LLB Senior Status). As part of her qualification journey, Mehves is currently pursuing her Legal Practice Course (‘LPC’) at the University of Law. She also holds a degree in European Union Law from Maastricht University, Netherlands.
Mehves works closely with Yulia on a variety of contentions matters and also writes Barnes Law’s legal blogs, manages social media accounts and is responsible for marketing.
Outside of work and studies, she enjoys running, tennis and yoga.
Mehves is looking forward to developing her legal skills at Barnes Law.
Julia PodgornovaInvestor Relationship Manager
Julia guides clients in making important business decisions based on comprehensive risk assessment and strategy. She supports investors in devising strategies designed to maximise each business’s potential from pre-seed to IPO.
Julia’s particular area of expertise are IT start-ups at different stages. Julia supports business through their fund-raising journey. As an Investor Relations Manager, Julia communicates with investors to facilitate a smooth round and legal part of each transaction.
In her free time Julia enjoys sailing, ballroom dancing, art exhibitions and travel.