Comment: Pre-nuptials aren’t just for A-listers

Lawyer Amal Alamuddin, who married actor George Clooney last month. Picture: Getty

Lawyer Amal Alamuddin, who married actor George Clooney last month. Picture: Getty

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THE wedding of George Clooney and lawyer Amal Alamuddin was a star-studded and glitzy affair, as one might expect when the groom is a Hollywood heartthrob.

But despite the romance of the Venetian setting, I hope the couple were hard-headed enough to enter into a pre-nuptial agreement beforehand. Not doing so could mean shelling out huge sums of money both in legal fees and in terms of sharing assets – given Clooney’s riches – should anything go wrong further down the line.

However, pre-nups are not just for the celebrity elite.

Many people embarking upon a second marriage have several relevant considerations, especially those who need to ensure that children from a previous relationship remain well provided for.

Even when a first marriage is “late” for both parties, certain family assets – for example a business – need to be protected. This is because in the case of subsequent marital breakdown, an estranged spouse will enjoy certain legal rights which were not in place before the marriage, and only a pre-nuptial agreement can mitigate against the effects.

A legally binding pre-nuptial agreement can identify and ring-fence assets and anything derived from them, preventing them being part of the matrimonial pot, or make provision for a financial settlement should a couple split.

As long as certain precautions are taken at the time the agreement is drawn up, in all likelihood its terms will hold up in divorce proceedings. However, it is important that the pre-nup is reasonable at the time it is agreed. Both parties should take independent legal advice and must act in good faith.

Undue pressure should not be brought to bear on one party to sign. An agreement presented on the morning of the big day with an ultimatum that it must be signed or the wedding is off is not likely to withstand scrutiny later. Even when both parties willingly sign, it is advisable to keep the agreement under review and make adjustments for changes in circumstances such as the arrival of children.

It should be possible to have a pre-nuptial agreement and still have a wonderful wedding, with the comfort of knowing that should the marriage lose its shine, time and treasure will not be wasted in a bitter divorce.

• Jennifer Gallagher is a partner with Blackadders solicitors blackadders.co.uk

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