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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Pre-nup brings security to marriage

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Marriage brings with it certain legal rights and responsibilities, not least of which is joining a couple’s assets. When a couple are simply living together (and there is no living together agreement), assets they buy and share jointly can be difficult to sort out if they split up. Tying the knot formally treats assets jointly and both have a claim to them in the event of a divorce. To the less romantic out there, it could be seen that it formalises a relationship, but that is of course ignoring all the hearts and flowers of a wedding day and sharing married life together.

All eyes were on Facebook billionaire founder Mark Zuckerberg last week, both for his marriage to long term girlfriend Priscilla Chan (they have been dating since before he invented Facebook) and the fact that his company floated on the stock exchange for £66 billion. Immediately, news pieces pointed out that it was no co-incidence that the two major life events, as his timeline might tag them, happened in the same week. Lawyers in the United States said it was a wise move as it would help limit his liability – in this case how much he might have to pay out in a settlement – if he split from his wife. Case law in the US suggests a partner may actually succeed in a big claim if they are unmarried, while marriage enables them to enshrine the settlement with a pre-nuptial agreement.

No one seems to know however whether or not a pre-nup was drawn up. It would make sense though, wouldn’t it? If you were the richest under-30-year-old in the world (I think he is), getting a pre-nup is a sensible thing to do. Surely your wife would agree, particularly if the terms ensured she was well cared for in the event of break up without her having to go to court to lay claim to billions?

But you don’t have to be a billionaire for a prenuptial agreement to be a sensible option. They can provide a measure of certainty and the means of protecting pre-marriage assets, inheritance, and existing family commitments such as children from a previous marriage. Think of it as an insurance policy, like car insurance. The insurance is not there because you are going to crash but there in case you do – whether it is your fault or not!

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High profile weddings like Mark Zuckerberg’s give the opportunity for us to disseminate a positive message on pre-nups but it would help significantly if there was more clarity on whether one is in place for this happy couple.

Andrew Woolley
Family solicitor

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