Joanne Major, Principal of North East’s leading divorce and children’s specialist firm, Major Family Law, comments in the Luxe Magazine a recent study suggested that the number of households in which women are paid more than men has increased fivefold in the space of a generation. Where divorce occurs in such households, it has been suggested that the women are “aggrieved” at the level of financial settlement awarded to the lower paid husbands.
Whilst a number of men may feel this is simply a deserved case of role reversal, the complaint levelled by these women was that the Court failed to take into account the inequality in domestic roles between the spouses, and specifically that even when women work long hours with increased responsibility, the husbands’ participation in domestic chores has not proportionally increased, leaving the women effectively with two jobs instead of one.
Whilst the gender role, and indeed stereotype, argument could rumble on indefinitely, another interesting statistic reflecting this brave new world has emerged: family lawyers are reporting an upsurge in requests for prenuptial agreements from women.
Although the majority of instructions remain male driven, it seems the amount of instructions from women has increased fivefold in the last three years. In the age of the entrepreneur, it seems that young women who have established their own business are keen to protect their future assets and business stability.
Much of this change in attitude has been attributed to the decision in the landmark Radmacher case, in which the Supreme Court enforced the terms of the parties’ prenuptial agreement, thus protecting a German heiress’s fortune.
Ms Radmacher (the heiress in question) pointed out that in her home country of Germany, and in that of her former husband, France, such agreements “are entirely normal and routine” – whereas in this country, they have popularly been viewed as the realms of the wealthy and the famous.
The growing trend, however, demonstrates a more practical and forward-thinking attitude towards prenuptial agreements, with an acknowledgement that they can actively reduce dispute and can represent effective business planning to protect the growth, structure and success of a business should the marriage of the business owner break down.
A prenuptial agreement can set out the division of income, assets and pensions in the event of a divorce as well as ring-fencing money and assets received by one of the parties from their parents , for instance as a gift as part of inheritance planning.
Whilst the decision in the Radmacher case did not go so far as to declare prenuptial agreements unequivocally enforceable, it has firmly established the presumption that parties entering into such agreements “will intend that effect be given to them”. The Court retains a discretion whether to uphold the terms of a pre-nuptial agreement, but this is entirely in keeping with the overall role and position of the Court within divorce and family proceedings.
On the basis that the cost of preparing and executing a formal prenuptial agreement, including both parties obtaining independent legal advice, is likely to be a mere fraction of the costs which would be incurred in fighting over the division of assets at the divorce stage, you have to ask yourself if you can afford not to consider a prenuptial agreement.
“I know some people think of pre-nuptial agreements as being unromantic, but for us it was meant to be a way of proving you are marrying only for love.”