Plans to give greater legal recognition to pre-nuptial agreements have led the Roman Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Right Reverend Mark Davis to warn that the traditional marriage vow to stay married for better or for worse to be rendered almost meaningless.
The Bishop argues that by asking couples to consider the possibility of their separation or divorce before their wedding turns the vows made at the altar into a meaningless agreement. He also claimed that marriage is at an all-time low, and pre-nup agreements could affect both the numbers of people choosing to marry and the importance of their vows.
In the United States, the practice of getting a “pre-nup” before marrying is commonplace, but English courts have not traditionally recognised these sorts of agreements and have reached any divorce settlement based on each couple’s circumstances at the time. This was undermined by the Supreme Court in a high-profile case in 2010, when the judges ruled that the £100 million fortune of German heiress Katrin Radmacher should remain with her after her divorce as this is what was stated in her pre-nup.
Recent press reports suggest that the Law Commission is to enshrine pre-nups in law along with other changes to divorce rules, but the Law Commission has yet to make public their plans. The Daily Mail claimed that the government is to lobby for legislation that will consider the whole topic of pre-nuptial, post-nuptial and separation agreements, and consider also how the genuine financial needs of both partners should be met in the event of a divorce.
It has taken almost four years of legal argument and consultation for the report on Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements to be published, and it is very unlikely that any change in the law will be made until after the next General Election in June 2015.
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