A Prenuptial Contract – Get One
A prenuptial agreement, antenuptial agreement, or premarital agreement, commonly abbreviated to prenup or prenupt, is a contract entered into prior to marriage or civil union by the people intending to marry. Usually a prenup provides for division of property and spousal support in the event of a divorce.
In theory, prenuptial agreements set out before marriage how the wealth and assets of both parties will be split in the event that the relationship goes pear-shaped further down the line.
Many countries, including Canada (Quebec), France, Italy, and Germany, have matrimonial regimes, in addition to, or some cases, in lieu of prenuptial agreements.
As of 2007, England and Wales do not enforce prenuptial agreements, but agreements may be upheld at the judge’s discretion. These countries also do not have a provision for marital regimes. But this is all changing. There has been a “sea change”
The Crossley case in the UK now highlights the fact that premarital agreements are being recognised in the English courts and, if properly constituted, are difficult to wriggle out of. In the past prenups were perhaps entered into in the hope, rather than belief, that they would be binding. Now they offer real protection.
Courts “are looking closely at prenuptial agreements and want good reasons — such as children or significant changes in a person’s circumstances — to depart from them”.
So who should go for a prenup? They are suitable for a wide range of people, including:-
- second-time rounders, in their forties and fifties, who want to provide fully for children of the first marriage and protect their own assets (sometimes against gold-digging former husbands when they meet someone wealthy)
- professionals, young City entrepreneurs in their twenties making money through work, skill and some luck
- business men and women used to binding agreements in their working lives
- international clients used to prenups in their home jurisdiction
- gay and lesbian clients who may have cohabited for years and now enter civil partnerships
- and those not necessarily “mega-wealthy” who favours “self-determination” and taking control of how financial issues might be resolved on divorce.
Lord Justice Thorpe, giving judgment in the Crossley case, suggested that it was time to look at legislation to make them enforeceable in law, given the lack of a marital property regime in England as found on the Continent.
With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, Hollywood stars are not inclined to risk it all on what might be a very short and misguided marriage followed by a very expensive divorce.
Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas; Liz Taylor and Larry Fortensky, Jane Fonda and Ted Turner are just a few of the A-list couples who have demanded prenuptial contracts.
Of course it is not only Hollywood stars who need to think about prenuptial contracts – Paul McCartney and Heather Mills famously signed no prenuptial agreement and rumours are rife that this acrimonious split could potentially see Ms Mills walk away with over £100m from a court settlement.
In January 2008, the wedding of a billionaire’s daughter was called off at the last minute because of a change to the prenuptial agreement.
Miss Fisher, 28, is the lawyer-daughter of American hotel tycoon Jeff Fisher. Mr Bailer, 33, is a Wall Street trader, wealthy in his own right, but not in the same league as Mr Fisher who last year sold his Innkeepers hotel chain for nearly £1 billion. They had been dating for three years and engaged for 18 months.
The bride and groom along with 300 guests were left in limbo as the society wedding of the season ground to a halt. In the end, the two families ended up having separate parties in adjoining hotels to ‘celebrate’ the wedding that never happened.
Late in the evening, the bride, Alexandra Fisher, put in a brief, tearful appearance among her family, dressed in black. Meanwhile, the groom, Josh Bailer, glumly nursed a drink with his best man and his 80 guests.
Three days before the wedding, the couple happily signed a prenuptial contract in which it was agreed that if the marriage failed, both sides would walk away with no alimony payments.
But on the wedding day, Mr Bailer’s father, Joe, said Mr Fisher demanded that Josh sign a last-minute amendment agreeing to pay Alexandra alimony, no matter how much she inherits from her dad.
Joe Bailer, 65, said: “We’re middle-class people with middle-class values. We came to Palm Beach for what was supposed to be the best day in the lives of two human beings, and ended up with two full days of crass negotiations for a prenuptial agreement.
“It was like a business transaction. That attitude is foreign to us. There was such urgency on Fisher’s part, it bordered on desperation.”
So before you get married get up to date legal advice from a specialist family lawyer. Get it all sorted and nailed down before last minute stress sets in.
Most foreign couples getting married in France need to have a civil ceremony in their home country first and then their religious ceremony in France as the legal requirements for a civil wedding in France are exhaustive – 6 months (not 40 days as it was before thank you Sarkosy) residency requirement with proof of address and they now check it too. Most guests at a french destination wedding do not even know that the ceremony is not a civil ceremony. Sorting out a pre-nup agreement before you leave home does not detract from a fairytale wedding in France. If you are not mega wealthy you way want to consider a french wedding package at a romantic castle that will not break the bank.