HM Insights

Something old, something new, something borrowed… sign this pre-nup before ‘I do’ (1)

In the course of the last year, my colleague in the Family Team, Alexis Miller, has spent probably as much time in the evenings and weekends on work associated with her role as a bridesmaid as she has in the office dealing with divorces and separations. She takes her role as bridesmaid seriously. As to whether she should give up the day job, you'd have to ask the brides involved.

A great wedding - priceless

All of this activity surrounding weddings has made us consider the costs involved these days. My own wedding was 20-plus years ago and so I am a bit out of date as to what it might cost today. The January 2013 edition of Brides Magazine lists the average cost of a wedding, including the honeymoon and engagement ring, at just under £25,000. That's a big chunk of cash when you consider what sort of deposit a couple needs to find for the purchase of a property nowadays.

Of course everyone wants their big day to be not only special but perfect in every way. Even if you withstand the temptation to go for the best of everything, the basics will still set any couple back a lot of money. Besides having a really good party, there's photography to capture the special day forever and, of course, the outfits. Good manners prevent anyone asking what a bride paid for her dress but for most women, it will be the most expensive dress that they ever own and particularly, that they will only ever wear once.

Few people would dispute that a memorable wedding day is priceless, and I've yet to meet a happily married couple still bemoaning the cost of their big day. But it's a different story if things turn sour, and a whole new set of expenses rear their head.

Pre-nuptial agreement - a sensible investment

My own experience in practice and discussions with colleagues both within Harper Macleod and externally suggest that a divorce which proceeds all the way through court to Proof (trial) can easily cost each party in excess of £20,000, plus VAT of course. These are not costs that many people can meet easily, nor do you even have any of the fun or the planning involved in a wedding to make you forget about the cost.

An essential part of wedding planning nowadays should be a Pre-Nuptial Agreement, particularly for couples who are marrying once they have become established in their careers and perhaps own a flat, or for those marrying for the second time.

I am not referring to a Hollywood-style multi-million settlement type Pre-Nuptial Agreement, but something that many people enquire about is how they can protect properties or other things that they have before they get married. In Scotland, assets held prior to marriage do not form any part of the matrimonial "pot" in the event of a divorce. The problem is that life is not as simple or static and often a flat owned prior to marriage will be sold and the proceeds used to buy the new family home so it is worth thinking about an agreement which will regulate these kind of things so that generally speaking, both parties, if they do separate, at least get back those things that they brought into the relationship.

That is the simplest type of agreement but for many people it's all they really need or want. It can be achieved for less than the price of the average wedding dress and could be worth a great deal more in cost savings at the other end if things do go wrong.

Agreements of this nature are becoming more common, perhaps as people are tending to get married when they have already established their career and have already purchased their first flat so they already have assets. It makes sense to try to protect these assets whilst allowing the flexibility for them to be used during the marriage if that is what is wanted. It may not be the most romantic gesture but it will probably provide the best value for money among the many expenses incurred in the lead up to a wedding.

Janice Jones is a Partner in Harper Macleod's Family Law team with more than 20 years experience in all types of actions.

Harper Macleod's team of family solicitors understands that divorce and separation can have a huge impact on your life, and can guide you through the best course of action with sensitivity and objectivity. Getting the best advice is crucial to resolving your situation, and there are many options available to you, from litigation and arbitration to negotiation, mediation and collaboration. We have also designed a number of packaged fees which, in certain circumstances, will let you know from the outset what the costs will be.

To talk to Janice or one of our team call 0141 227 9545