Consultation on pre-nups set to start next week

The possibility of giving legal force to pre-nuptial agreements is set to be the subject of a twelve week public consultation which starts next week.

The Law Commission, the Government’s legal reform advisers, is currently considering whether to give force to pre and post-nuptial agreements.

The Commission’s consultation will question whether the current law needs to be changed and whether such deals should be made legally binding.

Ministers

Lawyers, academics and members of the public will all be invited to have their say, and later this year the Commission will present its recommendations to the Government.

Media reports indicate that ministers may be favourably disposed towards making the controversial agreements legally binding.

But Government sources have insisted that ministers will wait for the outcome of the consultation before making any decisions.

Encouraging

However, any attempt to change the law could expose the Coalition to accusations that it is encouraging marriages to fail.

Such a change would also undermine the Church of England’s marriage vows which, since 1662, have seen grooms pledge to endow their spouse with all their worldly goods.

Pre-nups are not currently legally binding in England and Wales, though a recent ruling by the Supreme Court gave them more weight.

Pre-nup

Last November Kate Middleton was urged to sign a pre-nuptial agreement before marrying Prince William.

On the same day that the couple’s engagement was announced Princess Diana’s former private secretary Patrick Jephson said: “If she was my sister, I’d tell her to get a good pre-nup.”

And Charles Arthur of The Guardian tweeted: “Hope Kate Middleton has her prenup sewn up”.

Enforceable

In 2009 the Conservatives said they wanted to make pre-nups binding.

Tory MP and the then shadow justice minister Henry Bellingham told the BBC that the Tories wanted to bring in “a fairly wide ranging divorce law reform bill”.

He added, “I’m very keen that part of it will include ‘pre-nups’ and make them enforceable in law, subject to very strict safeguards”.

Divorce

Although there was no family law bill announced in the last Queen’s speech, the coalition Government wants to increase the use of mediation for divorcing couples. Mediation is not a reconciliation programme, rather it greases the tracks to divorce.

Divorce would be the first thing children would ban if they ruled the world, according to a 2008 poll of 1,600 children.

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