Pre-Nuptial Agreements: for Better or for Worse?

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Tom Cruise, Michael Douglas and Paul McCartney – what do these people have in common, besides being rich and famous? You guessed it – all signed up to pre-nuptial agreements prior to marrying their significant others.
Pre-nuptial agreements are not simply reserved for wealthy celebrities. Through pre-nuptial agreements are not officially recognised by Irish law, Family law Courts may, nonetheless, take the contents of such agreements into consideration in the event of marital breakdown. This article will explain, firstly, what precisely is a pre- nuptial agreement, and secondly, how is such an agreement regarded by Irish courts?

What is a Pre-Nuptial Agreement?
A pre-nuptial agreement is a legal document which is drawn up prior to a couple getting married, and provides for what is to happen to the couple’s assets and income in the unfortunate event of a marital breakdown.
Such an agreement may provide, for example, what is to happen to the family home should the parties go their separate ways. An agreement may also document what the position is in respect of spousal and child maintenance, pensions, shares and other assets. Generally, such documents are drawn up by the parties’ solicitors.

Legal Status of Pre-Nuptial Agreements
Many of you may be asking, at this stage, what precisely is the point of entering into a pre-nuptial agreement when such an agreement is not provided for in Irish law? While there is currently no law in place recognising the legal status of pre-nuptial agreements, such agreements may very well be taken into consideration and used as types of “guides” by Irish judges when deciding as to how the assets of a marriage are to be divided in the course of judicial separation or divorce proceedings.
When considering the weight to be given to such agreement, generally the courts will take into account the following:
–  Is the agreement oral or in writing? A written agreement is more persuasive.
–  Did both parties obtain independent legal advice prior to entering into the agreement? The parties should go to separate solicitors so that they are fully aware of the legal implications of the proposed agreement.
–  Did both parties make full financial disclosure prior to entering into the agreement? Both parties should declare precisely what they earn, their savings, assets, etc..

We will, of course, keep you updated if there are any legal developments in respect of pre-nuptial Agreements.


Watch this space!