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Prenups and unmarried couples’ rights in The Archers

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Prenups and cohabitation rights in The Archers.

Second marriages and prenuptial agreements have been one of the most recent storylines of The Archers. Through the trials and tribulations in the relationship between Lillian and Justin the BBC radio show has cast its light on 21st century family life from the comfort of fictional Ambridge.

Prenuptial agreements are gaining increasing popularity in the UK, amongst those wishing to set out their intentions prior to marriage.  Whilst the Courts are not currently obliged to uphold them, they are persuasive if the relationship breaks down.

Whilst it may not seem the most romantic of documents for those about to tie the knot, Lillian Bellamy, in her desire to persuade Justin that she was not marrying him for financial security, presented him with a pre-nup on the eve of their marriage. Claiming her lawyer had sent it to her just a day before the wedding she seems not to have been told that to have any chance of carrying weight , a prenuptial agreement should be entered into at least 21 days before the wedding. But let’s not let that get in the way of a good storyline!

Justin, a businessman, had an unexpected response. He called the wedding off, saying that he spent his life managing his life through contracts and wanted his relationship to be different.  They declared their love for one another, and danced into the night, but they did not get married. As such they now fall into the much more murky waters guiding cohabitees on relationship breakdowns.

Despite public campaigns by family lawyers, Resolution and The Times for more to be done to protect cohabitees upon relationship breakdowns and death, the law still gives very little support  to this growing band of couples which has doubled from 1.5 to 3.3 million, in 20 years.

Unmarried couple are disadvantaged in many ways – inheritance, tax and financial support to name but a few. And should their relationship break down,  untangling the financial intermingling of a cohabiting couple is much more complicated than if they were married (even without a prenuptial agreement!).

So, whilst contracts might not be very romantic, and those like The Archers Justin Elliott who feel contracts rule their business lives, may want to avoid them, for anyone (particularly those marrying for a 2nd time) who have already accumulated significant wealth in their own name, a contract, be that a prenuptial agreement on marriage or a cohabitation agreement for people living together are the very best way of avoiding long, expensive and often unfair outcomes on separation. 


Tamara Glanvill
Family Law Solicitor, Bedford

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