What is a prenuptial agreement?

Couples planning to marry or enter a civil partnership may want an agreement that sets out what they intend to happen to their money and property if the marriage or civil partnership breaks down. 

In England and Wales, prenuptial agreements are not strictly binding in the event of a divorce, but the terms of the agreement may be decisive in the event of a dispute that the court deals with unless the effect of the agreement would be unfair.

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Why enter into a prenuptial agreement?

There are several reasons to enter into a prenuptial agreement, even if you do not have significant pre-marital assets to protect.

A prenuptial agreement should be considered if there are certain assets that you would like to ring-fence before getting married or entering a civil partnership.

You may want to enter into a prenuptial agreement for the following reasons: 

  • To protect assets for children from a previous marriage; 
  • To protect assets that you owned prior to the marriage; 
  • To safeguard expected future inheritance;
  • To define what is to be considered 'matrimonial' or 'non-matrimonial' property, for example, in relation to business assets owned prior to the marriage; or
  • You have a connection with or property in another jurisdiction.

The above is not an exhaustive list. 

What should a prenuptial agreement include?

A prenuptial agreement is a bespoke document and is tailored to your circumstances. A well-drafted prenuptial agreement will help to provide clarity so that you and your partner make it clear to one another that certain property belongs to you alone and that it will not be shared in any future divorce. 

There are certain things that couples usually include within a prenuptial agreement, including, but not limited to: 

  • What will happen to the properties that either party brought into the marriage;
  • What will happen to the family home;
  • What will happen to any property given to either party or inherited during the marriage;
  • What will happen to any personal belongings or possessions owned before the marriage;
  • What will happen to any pensions; 
  • How you will deal with any debts;
  • What is to happen when there is a change in circumstances? (Review clause)

Again, the above is not an exhaustive list. 

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What is a review clause?

It is important to ensure that a nuptial agreement remains fair and meets the needs of the parties. Therefore, it is prudent to review its terms if particular events happen or after certain periods of time have passed. If a nuptial agreement is not reviewed and significant changes in the parties' circumstances occur, the court is unlikely to uphold its terms in any later financial remedy proceedings. 

Formulating a list to include every type of event that should result in a variation of the terms of a nuptial agreement is difficult, but the following possibilities are commonly accepted as triggering events:

  • The birth of a child (unless this was specifically contemplated in the original agreement, and those terms continue to appear fair).
  • The parties settling and having the matrimonial home in a jurisdiction outside England and Wales.
  • A party's incapacity through chronic illness or disability.
  • Bankruptcy.
  • Other significant changes in financial circumstances such as:
    • a party's loss of employment;
    • significant loss of value in a business; and
    • significant loss of value in an asset.

Implementing a review clause should reduce the possibility of the nuptial agreement being deemed unfair by the court in later financial remedy proceedings as it shows the parties have considered the change in circumstance, have renegotiated the original agreement accordingly and believe the varied agreement is fair. A review clause is particularly important in the case of a young couple who potentially have many life changes ahead.

Financial arrangements

A prenuptial agreement can give more certainty as to the financial arrangements if you separate and a review clause should reduce the possibility of the nuptial agreement being challenged at a later date. 

Both parties will need independent legal advice on the agreement, and they will need to disclose to one another information about their assets, liabilities, and income. 

It is good practice to finalise the agreement in good time before the wedding or civil partnership ceremony (at least six weeks) so that both parties have sufficient time to consider the terms of the agreement.  


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If you are planning to marry or enter a civil partnership and you want to ensure that certain assets are protected from claims for financial provision on divorce or dissolution. If you have any more questions or would like more information, you can contact our Family Law Team below.