Think tank’s call for binding pre-nups chimes with top UK divorce lawyer

“The English stance on prenuptial agreements has been coming under increasing pressure in recent years. It is high time that a couples’ right to agree their own affairs and to expect each other to be held to that agreement, subject to the usual contractual safeguards, be recognised,” Vardag said.

The Centre for Social Justice – set up by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith – is demanding a radical shake-up of the law to strengthen marriage and reduce family breakdown.

In its interim report ‘The Family Law Review’ published on Monday, the influential think-tank says pre-nuptial agreements should be legally binding in Britain and cohabiting couples should be refused the same legal rights as married people.

Vardag of Strand-based Ayesha Vardag Solicitors believes all couples should sign a prenuptial agreement before tying the knot, as a matter of course.

Prenuptial agreements have become more socially acceptable in recent years, and while English courts are allowing greater freedom to couples wishing to regulate their own affairs by legal agreement, the court’s final say – which can override a pre-nup – can often mean the moneyed party in a relationship can lose out substantially.

“English law used to ensure that only the ‘reasonable needs’ of the financially weaker party were met,” Vardag explains.

“But since a leading case in 2000, the principle of a fair division of assets has reigned supreme and has brought the English courts close to a presumption of equal division of the assets acquired during a marriage.

“English courts might even be operating in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to give legal force to prenuptial agreements,” she warns.

“Marriage is a legal status with significant financial implications. If we are free to contract in other areas of our lives, why not in this?

“If couples are permitted to regulate their own affairs by pre-nuptial agreement rather than leaving it to the discretion of the courts, marriage will make more sense to more people. At present, marriage is starting to look like rather a dangerous romantic folly”.

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Notes to Editors:

Ayesha Vardag graduated from Cambridge University with Honours in Law and from Brussels with a Master’s in European Law.

Her firm, Ayesha Vardag Solicitors, works regularly with the leading figures at the family law Bar on some of the biggest cases in the English courts.

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