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14 APR 2011

Young Lawyers - Hannah Budd: Are prenups relevant to the rest of us?

This is the first piece for a new opinion column written by young family lawyers. For more information, click here.

Hannah BuddEven before the Supreme Court decision last October in Radmacher, the debate surrounding the status of marital agreements has dominated lectures, seminars, periodicals and general small talk at networking events. As the Law Commissions Consultation closes I can't help but wonder if I am alone in struggling to get enthusiastic about the issue.

Don't get me wrong, I am as interested as any in the Law Commissions recommendations but there is a large part of me that thinks that this is an area which lacks relevance to all but the smallest minority, and especially so with those of my generation.

The reality is that now, except where there is very generous assistance from the Bank of Mum and Dad, most of us leave university and Law School with significant student debts which we are paying off long into our early years of qualification: a situation which will only be exacerbated for future generations following the forthcoming changes in university tuition fees. This, coupled with the very real difficulties for first time buyers getting on the property ladder, means that for most of my contemporaries marrying in their late twenties or early thirties there are few, if any, assets to protect at the time of marriage. 

I fully appreciate that there are many circumstances in which a pre-nuptial agreement, and certainty as to the effect of them, is absolutely invaluable. For example those who have inherited or been gifted significant sums from parents, or will do so, but the reality is that these individuals will always buck the trend.

So what would engage me? In a society where pre marital cohabitation is generally accepted as the cultural norm I can't help but feel that under the existing law many injustices are done. Will there be reform? My concern is that in a society in which marriage is still actively promoted it is simply too politically sensitive.

Hannah Budd is an Assistant Solicitor at The International Family Law Group LLP. She specialises in complex ancillary relief cases often with an international element.

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