Engaged couples should be having a provocative bedtime chat before they walk down the aisle – about getting a prenup! I must admit I giggled when a colleague commented at the Woolley & Co Annual Conference in May that couples didn’t talk about legal issues before they get married because “there was nothing sexy about a prenup”. I’d never thought of the law – or chatting about it - as an aphrodisiac before.
Marriage means making ALL finances joint
It got me thinking about how non-lawyers would think about having such a conversation. Let’s face it, family lawyers aren’t amongst the popular choice of guests for traditional wedding ceremonies, given we might consider raising a hand to object when the vicar asks the couple to repeat “with all my worldly goods I thee endow” and asking if the couple understand they are giving up their current and future financial well-being on both a personal and professional level.
No protection for unmarried couples
I’ve stood on my soap box before (The Law On Cohabitation Needs to Change) to explain there is no such thing as common law husband and wife and separating couples who don’t marry aren’t afforded the same legal protections as those who did. Whilst I believe that this should be changed to better protect the rights of cohabitees, I don’t anticipate a change any time soon.
For now, the choice is with the couples themselves. Live together or marry. Both have their legal consequences. If you cohabit there are no automatic legal protections when it comes to finances, if you marry there are. So, if you do marry, be aware of the consequences for your personal finances should you later divorce.
Couples urged to take off the rose-tinted glasses and talk about prenups
As a divorce solicitor, it sometimes feels it’s easier for people to discuss the unfairness of the position post-separation, than have a conversation about the ‘what ifs’ whilst everything in the relationship is going well. Maybe, people don’t want to listen when those rose-tinted glasses are newly fitted.
I have provided advice for many people on whether a prenup is right for them, what the terms should be and the importance of both parties having proper advice. The cynic in me says everyone should have a prenup just as we all have insurance for our homes, cars and pets but of course, I accept the cost has to justify the assets being protected, and not all couples believe they have assets worth protecting.
How to talk about a prenup
To be honest the biggest challenge is getting the couple to have the awkward conversation in the first place: “I love you so much… but not that much. I want us to get a prenup”.
Is that really what they’re saying? Is that really such a bad conversation? Couples openly discuss before marriage or deciding to live together whether they want children or whether maybe their priorities are career or holiday focused to see if they really are ‘matched’ to move the relationship to the next stage. They also frequently share these discussions with family and friends, so what’s so bad about saying “If we split up I think I should keep my own money”?
A prenup must be fair, it has to give consideration for any future children or debilities through ill-health which impact upon what’s written in the prenup and it has to be properly prepared by solicitors to give each party to it proper advice.
Set against the average English UK wedding costing £27,000 according to the BBC who wouldn’t want such an arousing, suggestive, provocative, even risqué bedtime-chat?
Family Law Solicitor, Bristol