Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has backed a call to make pre-nuptial agreements legally binding for couples who are considering marriage.
Pre-nups are contracts outlining who gets what in the event of a break-up, but they currently have no legal standing.
Speaking to the Evening Standard newspaper, Grayling claimed the idea was “sensible”.
Grayling, who oversees the Ministry of Justice, made the comments in the wake of a report by the Law Commission that recommended making pre-nups legally enforceable.
He said: “Where couples feel it’s necessary but where there are complex financial circumstances, the commission has rightly said it’s sensible to have mechanisms to make sure that if things do go wrong, there are easy ways of sorting them.”
Pre-nups have recently been criticised as undermining marriage vows. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury said the agreements encourage people to prepare for divorce before they are even married.
Speaking ahead of the Commission’s recommendations, he said: “Should we not be putting our efforts into guarding and building-up the institution of marriage rather than steadily undermining it?”
“It is a legal provision which would surely empty the words of the marriage promise” – such as for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer and till death us do part – of “all meaning”, the Rt Revd Mark Davies commented.
Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation think-tank said that legally enforced pre-nups could pave the way to more divorce.
“If you go into a pre-nuptial agreement essentially someone is getting down on their knee to you and saying; ‘darling, will you spend the rest of your life with me and marry me, but will you sign this piece of paper that says I get to keep all my toys in the event of a disaster'”, he said.
“One of the more robust findings in social science is that if you think about divorce you are more likely to do it. The pre-nup is key to set you on that path”, Benson added.