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CZJ-style pre-nups coming to the UK.

Byline: Jamie Grierson Reporter newsdesk@walesonline.co.uk

SO-CALLED pre-nup agreements could become more common in Wales following a proposal from the Law Commission to bring the agreements into UK law.

Under the current law, couples can make pre- and post-nuptial agreements but they are not binding and the parties cannot be certain they will be upheld.

Supporters argue such agreements reduce the conflict that can arise from dividing assets during divorce.

A report from the Law Commission, Matrimonial Property Needs and Agreements, includes a draft bill which, if implemented, would bring legally-recognised "qualifying nuptial agreements" into effect.

They would enable married couples and civil partners to make a binding agreement about how their property or finances should be shared if their relationship breaks down, the Commission said.

Sophie Williams, of South Wales law firm Watkins and Gunn said that prenup agreements were becoming more common, particularly among people with existing assets who are marrying for a second time.

"We don't expect this measure to lead to every engaged couple in the country seeking a prenup, but for those couples who want to have one in place, it will make their legal situation much clearer and reduce uncertainty upon separation.

"I feel that there would need to be a cultural shift in order for prenups to become commonly used, as it is currently viewed negatively. However, I have dealt with many cases where a prenup would have been extremely helpful and limited the amount of bad feeling.

Professor Elizabeth Cooke, Law Commissioner for property, family and trust law, said that a bill would give existing prenup agreements a more solid legal standing.

She said: "Pre- and post-nuptial agreements are becoming more commonplace but the courts will not always follow them and lawyers are therefore not able to give clear advice about their effect.

"Qualifying nuptial agreements would give couples autonomy and control, and make the financial outcome of separation more predictable. We have built in safeguards to ensure that they cannot be used to impose hardship on either party, nor to escape responsibility for children or to burden the state."

As part of a package of measures, the Commission has also recommended that the Family Justice Council, the non-statutory advisory body made up of representatives from the family justice system, produces guidance on financial needs. Guidance would explain the outcome a judge would aim for in determining a settlement.

Ms Cooke added: "We believe that married couples and civil partners should have the power to decide their own financial arrangements, but should not be able to contract out of their responsibilities for each other's needs, or their children.

"The measures we are recommending would help couples understand and meet their financial responsibilities and, where appropriate, achieve financial independence."

CAPTION(S):

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, pictured here in June 1999, >famously signed a pre-nup agreement before their wedding in 2000
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 28, 2014
Words:480
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