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Pre-nup law welcomed by expert

A Lancashire family law expert has welcomed the proposal that pre-nuptial agreements are to be made legally binding.

Currently such agreements are not actually binding on a court, but provided the parties involved have agreed the contents, they would normally be upheld.

Under proposals announced by the Law Commission, couples will be able to protect certain assets to stop them being shared with a partner if they were to divorce. This would be a major change in the law.

Simon Gledhill, head of Family at Napthens solicitors, revealed that his team have been drafting increasing numbers of pre-nuptial agreements for clients, as the courts in the UK have confirmed their importance.

He warned that under the new rules it will be important to ensure that such an agreement does not leave one party suffering unfair financial hardship.

He said: “When drafting a pre-nuptial agreement, we normally try and ensure that each party has the benefit of legal advice and that there has been frank disclosure of each party’s financial position to establish full understanding and that the agreement has not been made under duress.

“The more difficult issue has been to try and ensure that the agreement will still be viewed as fair when looked at clinically at a later date. Often significant changes can occur over the passage of time which can be hard to imagine when an agreement is first drafted.

“The agreements are likely to be very effective for couples who maybe marrying a second time and wish to ring-fence assets they have accrued prior to the relationship which they will often wish to leave to the children of their first marriage.

“The more difficult cases have been those where a younger couple enter into agreement and then go on to have children and divorce several years later. Sometimes the effect of sticking rigidly to the agreement could lead to one party suffering financial hardship.

“Pre-nuptial agreements could also be used to ensure that assets inherited by one party in a marriage are not shared upon divorce, and the new rules are also set to limit the amount of maintenance that needs to be paid to a former spouse upon divorce.

“It will be very interesting to consider the detailed proposals and in particular what safeguards are put in place to prevent a party being left in need.”