Are Prenups Legally Binding in the UK?

27 March 2023
A prenuptial agreement, commonly referred to as a “prenup”, is a document drawn up between an engaged couple before they marry. Contrary to popular belief, prenups are not just reserved for the rich and famous; they are for anyone who wants to protect their assets before entering into a marriage.
Image prenuptial agreement
A prenup essentially outlines how a couple’s assets will be divided in the event of a divorce. This can help both parties protect money and property they individually owned before marriage, inheritance that one of them expects to receive, as well as trust funds and assets they might want to leave to their children from a previous marriage. 

This process forces couples to discuss their financial goals, their attitudes towards money, saving and spending habits and any debt that has accrued. Money issues are at the forefront of many divorces, so having these types of conversations before the wedding can really help build the foundation for a stronger union. If the marriage does still end in divorce, having a prenup will save time and money in the divorce settlement. 

In the UK, a prenup is not legally binding and there are various caveats. However, UK courts do typically recognise and uphold prenuptial agreements, as long as they meet the qualifying criteria and are fair in all circumstances. It is also possible to get a prenup after you have gotten married, which is call a “postnuptial agreement” and follows the same rules. 

What Can and Cannot Be Included in a Prenup?

Prenups are tailored to a couple’s unique situation, but typically contain an inventory of each of your assets and how you wish for them to be split if your marriage ends in divorce. For instance, you might have property you bought prior to your marriage, savings held in a bank account, pension pots and inheritance that you don’t want to lose to your partner if you separate, and vice versa. It’s best to start by listing out all of your assets that you own individually and jointly, and then discussing how you’d like them to be dealt with if you get a divorce. You can even protect future earnings within your prenup by including this as a clause. 

There are strict rules of what cannot be included in a prenup. For instance, you cannot dictate things like child custody or other child-related matters, such as religious views or schooling. You cannot include personal, illegal or lifestyle matters. A prenup is purely for the purpose of assigning assets to each party.  

What Requirements Must Be Met to Enforce a Prenup?

As prenups are not legally binding, there are certain criteria that must be met for the court to take them seriously. The prenup must be entered into willingly by both parties, who should both have received legal advice and should both have received full disclosure. Both parties will need to sign the prenup. Furthermore,  it must not have been signed within 28 days immediately before the marriage or civil partnership.

What Happens if there is No Prenup?

If a couple separate and there is no prenup in place, the court will decide how to split the assets so that both parties’ capital needs are met. This is often a 50/50 split, but there are sometimes reasons why assets are not divided equally. For example, if you are a stay at home parent and have been out of work for a number of years, you may require more financial support than your ex-spouse who has a stable income with high earning potential. You may be able to make a mutually acceptable agreement on the division of your money and assets without involving the court, but you will need to make this legally binding with a consent order. 

If you are ready to arrange your prenuptial agreement or require some advice, get in touch to book your initial appointment with a specialist solicitor. We are here to help make the process as care-free as possible.