A survey carried out by the Marriage Foundation in 2021 found that 20% of those married since the year 2000 have a prenup –  compared to just 1.5% who were married in the 1970s, 5% in the 1980s and 8% in the 1990s.

What is a prenup?

A prenuptial agreement (prenup) enables a couple to map out how they will deal with financial and practical issues in the event that their marriage ends in divorce. 

How common are prenups?

Prenups are becoming more common; 20 years ago, we may have advised on one or two prenuptial agreements a year, if that.  We are now advising on one or two a month.  

Here are some of our thoughts and observations on the reasons for the upward trend in people signing prenups:

Certainty about the enforceability of a prenuptial. In Radmacher v Granatino [2010 UKSC 42] the Supreme Court enforced a pre-nuptial agreement and confirmed that ‘the court should give effect to a nuptial agreement that is freely entered into by each party with a full appreciation of its implications unless in the circumstances prevailing it would not be fair to hold the parties to their agreement’.   Provided the tests in Radmacher have been complied with a couple can now expect to be held to the terms of their agreement on the breakdown of their marriage.

People are marrying later in life and accumulating wealth they want to protect. A prenup can ensure that the interests of a couple and their wider family are safeguarded, particularly if family businesses, trust or inherited assets are involved.  They also provide a level of clarity and certainty for any children or dependents.  According to the Office for National Statistics the average age at marriage for opposite-sex couples in 2019 was 34.3 years for men and 32.3 years for women. This continues the trend of the overall rise in average age at marriage since the early 1970s. For same-sex couples, the average age was slightly higher at 38.1 years for men and 33.8 years for women in 2019. Over the last two decades, there has been an 8.5% increase in average age for men and a 9.9% increase for women since 1999 (31.6 years for men and 29.4 years for women).

Many millennials are children of divorce making them more predisposed to protecting their assets. People marrying for a second time are also more predisposed to protecting their assets with a prenup and wanting to pass their wealth to their children. In 1965, 1 in 10 couples who married that year were divorced by their 10th anniversary. This increased to 1 in 4 couples for those married in 1995.

An increase in the number of female entrepreneurs and women in leadership roles. According to a survey from Tide, in 1984 there were 646,000 self-employed women in the UK.  In 2020 that number had more than doubled to 1.6 million. In 2021, the representation of women in leadership in the FTSE 100 had increased to 32.5%, up from 30.6% in 2020.  The Marriage Foundation survey also found that prenups were most likely among couples where the wife earns the same or more than their spouse.

People are better informed.  Improved access to information and advice means couples and their wider family members have a better understanding of the law, the  advantages of having a prenup in place and a dispelling of the belief they are only for the super-rich and famous.    This is probably best summed up by one of our clients We always felt that a pre-nuptial agreement was a sensible option, and, while not a very romantic task to complete in the lead up to the wedding, we did feel that going through complete financial disclosure with each other and agreeing on what we did and didn’t want out of the agreement put us in good stead for our marriage moving forward. Should anything go wrong, we also think that having the agreement in place should reduce the stress, uncertainty and legal costs related to any divorce proceedings. And we felt this was important, particularly if children are involved”.

For more information about pre and post-nuptial agreements visit our website page Pre and Post-Nuptial Agreements – Watson Morris Family Law.  We also offer our legal expertise alongside relationship coaching to help couples lay the foundations for a strong and secure relationship 2Unify – Watson Morris Family Law

Written by Caroline Watson

January 31, 2023

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