Does the ‘underdog’ have rights when presented with a pre-nup?

Pre-marital agreements are often insisted upon by one set of parents who may be concerned about the security of assets which they wish to pass on to their children. It is understandable that if you have spent decades building a business and investment portfolio you will be reluctant to put part of it at risk if your son or daughter’s marriage should fail.

Often the wealthy family will be experienced in using legal instruments such as trusts and pre-marital agreements. However, if you are the less wealthy partner in a couple and are presented with a pre-nuptial or pre-civil partnership agreement, you might feel like the underdog with little option but to keep quiet and sign. No-one wants to get off on the wrong foot with their future in-laws.

Michelle Uppal

Michelle Uppal, a family law solicitor with Miles and Partners in London explains that ‘Each party to the agreement has important rights and you should not feel steam-rollered into signing something that is fundamentally unfair. For a pre-marital agreement to have any force in the event of a divorce, it needs to have been negotiated fairly and each person should have independent legal advice.’

If presented with a pre-nuptial agreement which was drafted by another solicitor, there are a number of things that we would look for to protect the interests of our client. For example:

  • Triggering a review – circumstances might change during the marriage which could have significant implications and reduce the appropriateness of the agreement. For example, trigger events might include the arrival of children or a very serious illness.
  • Business involvement – it is not uncommon for a son-in-law or daughter-in-law to become actively employed in the family business, and if they start to contribute to its success then this will need to be recognised.
  • Clarity over property ownership – this can become complicated when property is an inherent part of the family business, such as with a landed estate or property developer.

“There is a delicate balancing act to be achieved in negotiating an agreement which is fair, without seeming to be grasping and without upsetting your future family,” explains Michelle. “This is why it is important to instruct a specially trained and experienced solicitor who can help you to reach agreement in a positive and constructive way.”

“A wedding is an exciting time for both families and getting a pre-nup agreed well in advance will ensure that you can put business matters behind you and focus on your future life together”.

For more information on premarital agreements, please contact Michelle Uppal on 020 7426 0400 or email mu@milesandpartners.com.

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please note that the law may have changed since the date this article was published. You should always take legal advice relating to your individual circumstances.