Recent headlines question the importance of pre-nuptial agreements; more specifically the media have been discussing the importance of pre-nups for women.
It is a much touted myth that women are financially better off following a divorce; in-depth research carried out by Dr Stephen Jenkins from the University of Essex found that after the breakdown of a marriage women’s income dropped by 9%, whilst men’s income increased by a 27%.
Assets, such as pension pots and houses, often contribute to this stark difference between incomes. Children also affect divorcee finances following a family breakdown, but not in the way one might assume; in the past couples tended to take on “traditional” roles in the relationship, which saw the man carrying on in full-time work whilst the woman stayed at home or worked part time to care for the family. As a result, whilst fathers may have struggled immediately after a divorce they tended to quickly get back on track. However, mothers continued to struggle for longer whilst taking care of children.
However in recent years, the number of husbands choosing to stay at home instead of the wife is increasing, although they still remain in the minority. This is leading to a small rise in husbands claiming maintenance and child support from their partners in divorce settlements.
With more women focusing on their careers or building businesses, it may well be just as beneficial for wives to protect their assets as it is for husbands – particularly those on higher incomes or with substantial investments or inherited assets. Even if you consider yourself to be on a low income, both partners should consider a pre-nup to protect assets such as pensions, houses or large purchases.
Interestingly, whilst the majority of those polled by the ONS agreed that pre-nups should be recognised by UK law, only 37% and 33% of men and women respectively said that they would be prepared to sign such an agreement if asked by their partner.
German heiress Katrin Radmacher took her case to the Supreme Court after French courts awarded her ex-husband, Nicolas Granatino, a settlement of over £5million, despite him signing a pre-nup agreement prior to marrying Radmacher. The couple agreed in the pre-nup that neither spouse would make any claims against the other’s finances should their relationship end in divorce; the Supreme Court Judge stated that the pre-nup was an important factor in decided the settlement, deemed it to be fair and reduced Granatino’s settlement to £1million.
When considering a financial settlement during a divorce the assets are said to be shared on a basis which reflects the contribution of both parties; it is important to know that the contribution of the “breadwinner” is considered equal to that of the “home maker”.
Supporting a partner through stress and financial difficulty, as well as raising children and looking after the family home are all factors taken into account by the court during the settlement.
Your finances can also be negatively impacted by debt accrued by either or both partners during the marriage. You may be held responsible for credit cards, loans and unpaid bills that have built up over time; it is important that you ensure no credit has been taken out in your name without your knowledge and that you are up to date on all charges and debts that need clearing. Unexpected debt, along with the usual costs of divorce, can cripple partners financially if they are ill-prepared.
If you run a family business, or work alongside a business partner, they too may feel more comfortable if you were to take out a prenup before marrying. The idea of a business partner potentially bringing someone new into the business through marriage may be unsettling, and they may worry that they will suffer financially if the relationship breaks down.
The aim of the courts is to achieve fairness in any financial divorce settlement, this means that prenuptial agreements are only enforceable if they were properly entered into by both parties, and if by enforcing the agreement neither party is subject to an unjust result. Whilst a pre-nup gives you the best chance of protecting yourself in the event of divorce, the court still has the power to divide assets as they see fit if they feel the agreement is void in some way.
*For more information on pre-nups and further advice, visit the Pannone Family Law blog here.