January 31, 2014

Why £25 online pre-nups could cost couples dearly

Blog by Peter Jones

First we had DIY online divorces, now I read this week that couples are being offered online DIY pre-nuptial arrangements for just £25!

As readers of this blog will know, at Jones Myers we actively encourage couples to consider drawing up a pre-nup or pre-cip before they marry or enter into a civil partnership.

We engage couples in frank and open discussions so that they can agree in advance what should happen to their finances if their relationship breaks down.  With 42 percent of marriages in England and Wales ending in divorce, these arrangements are increasingly a sensible option and may help resolve future conflict should a couple break up.

However, alarm bells should ring at the notion of a ‘one of size’ fits all online service that could leave both partners vulnerable if their marriage or partnership crumbles. Yes, £25 is cheap, but in the long run this DIY pre-nup could be a very expensive option.

Under English and Welsh law pre-marriage arrangements are not actually legally binding, however the courts now try to give effect to the couple’s wishes.

A judge will consider how the agreement was drawn up – checking that both partners had impartial, expert legal advice and ensuring that no-one was coerced into signing. Issues such as a change in circumstances since the pre-nup was drawn up could affect how courts view the validity of the agreement.

My fear is that courts may well throw out these DIY pre-nups that take just 20 minutes to complete and are undertaken without any independent legal advice.

Pre-nups are increasingly popular to help safeguard finances and assets built up before a marriage or civil partnership, or to protect future inheritances. Couples marrying for a second time may find a pre-nup particularly useful where there are children from a first marriage. DIY pre-nups would not work for such complex situations and – even worse – could be worthless.

I am a big fan of these arrangements. They are ideal to help couples agree solutions to sensitive issues before problems arise and can help to avoid confrontation and substantial litigation costs in the future.

However, I would urge couples to talk to an expert family lawyer before embarking on a pre-marriage agreement.  Like any DIY task, a cheap-fix online pre-nup, could be a costly botched job.

What are your views on online DIY pre-nups?  You can comment below or on Twitter @helpwithdivorce

If you would like to know more about pre-nups or pre-cips please call us on 0113 246 0055 or drop us an e-mail