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The future for pre-nuptial agreements

Should a couple be able to make a firm agreement – before they get married or enter a civil partnership – about what should happen to their property if their relationship ends? Or should the law remain as it stands, that the courts can decide if their agreement is enforceable?

 

In a recent consultation, the Law Commission is asking the public’s views on a range of potential options for reforming the law of pre-nuptial, post-nuptial and separation agreements – contracts made by couples before or during their marriage or civil partnership that are intended to govern their financial arrangements if the relationship ends.

 

As it stands, the law does not allow a couple to prevent each other from asking the courts to decide how their property should be shared. And it is still down to the courts to decide on a case-by-case basis how much weight to give to any agreement the couple may have made. In many cases this can offer important protection but it can also lead to uncertainty and expensive litigation and there have been calls for statutory reform.

 

In its consultation, the Law Commission is asking whether the current legislation – which is a generation old – provides the right basis for determining the effect of marital property agreements, or whether a new approach is needed. Could reform bring more autonomy and certainty to couples who want to enter into such agreements, while retaining sufficient safeguards to protect vulnerable spouses and children?

 

The consultation closes on 11 April 2011.

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