How to ask for a prenup without causing a breakup

Your wedding day is approaching. But as you contemplate saying “I do”, you can’t help but wonder if you’ve forgotten something. Did you organise the photographer? Did you remember to pay the caterer? What about the prenup? While bringing up the idea might seem like a difficult task, having the conversation together could be the key to having a healthy and productive marriage. He may not like the idea at first. But Keystone Law matrimonial lawyers Kim Marshall and Carolyn Bottomley will explain how, when and why you should convince your fiancé that a prenup is a must-have prior to getting hitched.

Why everyone needs a prenup

We are in love! What could ever come between us? Then life happens, people change and sometimes divorce comes knocking at the door. Entering into a prenup compels couples to discuss important financial issues early. Dealing with this at the outset can truly strengthen a relationship and support good communication throughout a marriage.

A prenup enables both of you to agree how assets are to be held and managed during the marriage. For example, will you have a joint bank account? How will you hold property? This provides you with certainty and clarity and avoids potential future problems.

Before signing a prenup, you will both be required to disclose, to each other, details of your assets, debts and income. This ensures you are both aware of each other’s finances at an early stage and avoids any surprises further down the line. It also encourages honesty and openness in the marriage.

Perhaps one of you or your parents have been through a difficult divorce and are all too aware of how costly this can be, both emotionally and financially. Setting out what will happen in the event of a split should ensure fewer arguments about finances and save you a small fortune in legal fees.

But doesn’t having a prenup mean we think our marriage will fail at the outset?

No. Of course you both hope and intend that your marriage will last and that you will grow old together, but it’s loving and caring to ensure that you protect each other financially and what you have built either before or during your marriage or acquired from family through gifts or inheritances. Think of it like an insurance policy. You hope not to have to rely on it, but it’s reassuring to know that it’s there.

I thought they weren’t legally binding in the UK anyway?

Prenups are now an everyday part of many family lawyers’ workload and if the document is drafted by a legal specialist and adheres to certain requirements, you should expect to be held to the terms of the agreement, as long as it is fair and provides for both parties’ needs.

The law in this area, however, is constantly evolving: it is therefore important to bear in mind that the law relating to prenups may be subject to further clarification by future decisions of the superior courts or may be the subject of legislation passed during the course of your marriage.

How and when should I raise the subject?

As soon as possible. Try to plan ahead and allow plenty of time. Ideally, bring up the subject well in advance of the wedding, preferably several months before you tie the knot, to allow plenty of time to negotiate the terms. You’ll have plenty of other things to think about in the lead-up to the big day and it’s all too easy to let time run away.

Sensitivity is the key when broaching the topic. You might say that you want to discuss both of your financial expectations from the marriage and what you both want to share as well as not share. It can be really helpful to have an open and honest discussion about your finances at the outset. This sets the tone for good communication, which is key to a successful marriage and can actually strengthen your relationship.

Don’t present your fiancé with a document to sign. Instead, discuss the broad terms between yourselves before contacting your lawyers to prepare an initial draft.

Allow sufficient time for the document to be negotiated, considered and signed. Agreements should be entered into at least 28 days before the wedding to avoid any situations where it may be signed “under duress”.

While it is better to sign a prenup before your wedding, you can still enter into a postnup after you are married, and this can provide the same financial protection. However, it is important to bear in mind that it is inherently more difficult to ask your fiancé to sign a postnup after the big day when you are both enjoying life as newlyweds!

Think about legal costs

Each of you is required to take independent legal advice about the effects of the terms of the agreement before signing it. If you are the one who suggested the prenup, you might want to offer to pay for your fiancé’s lawyer as well as your own.

My fiancé agrees. Now what?

It is important to speak to a lawyer that specialises in prenups as well as family and matrimonial law. They will be able to fully consider your situation and goals before you enter into a prenup.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.

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