You don’t have to be a celebrity to think about pre-nuptial agreements before you get married. Although we generally tend to associate pre-nups with the super-rich and famous there are lots of reasons why more ‘ordinary folk’ might think of asking their fiancé to enter into one. So what are they?
- If you are the owner of a family farm,
- If you are the owner of a long established business – particularly a family business
- Or if you are just plain wealthy….
What status do Pre-Nuptial Agreements have in Irish Law?
In Ireland, ‘pre-nups’ are not recognised as being fully enforceable, but neither are they illegal. If you are unfortunate and your marriage subsequently ends in Divorce or Separation, a pre-existing agreement which sets out the terms of this separation, can be considered by the court. It will certainly be a factor which is taken into account, and can indeed alter the outcome, depending on the circumstances of your case at the time of Divorce.
The Courts will look at the issue of ‘intention’ i.e. what you and your spouse were aiming to achieve at the time you signed the pre-nuptial agreement. They may then use the pre-nup as a guide in dividing assets on Divorce. The weight given to the pre-nup will be depend on whether it was signed with the benefit of full disclosure i.e. that both of you knew the full picture about the finances, and that you both obtained independent legal advice.
In deciding whether to follow the pre-nup the court will also be heavily influenced by the situation you are both facing at the time of Divorce e.g. are there children now? Is one of you suffering ill health? The issue of dependency of children or spouses is a critical one.
Managing your pre-nup in Ireland
Whether you have a pre-nup or are planning one, at present you don’t know what weight it will carry if you ever need to use it here in Ireland. If you have an existing Pre-Nuptial Agreement, it may help to review it regularly to take account of the changes life presents. If you are planning one, make sure your ‘intentions’ are as clearly laid out as possible, and bear in mind that life circumstances may change .