Reference source: Settling up before settling downThe Sun-Herald
8 July 2007
By Maxine Frith
The signing of prenuptial agreements is soaring as everyday brides and grooms join the rich and famous in preparing for divorce before they tie the knot.
Some Sydney law firms have had a quadrupling in prenups in the past year alone.
And the agreements do not only apply to how assets will be divided if love doesn't last, which doesn't in one in three Australian marriages. Couples are also using prenups to lay down marital roles.
With the average age for marriage nearing 30, first-time couples are also coming to the altar with more assets than previous generations.
Lawyer Jackie Vincent, of Sydney firm Watts McCray, a firm believer in prenups. saidIt's about having harmony in your relationship, financially and otherwise. I had one older couple recently who had everything in their prenup, including who was going to clean the bathroom and who was going to sweep the leaves.
The most common cases involved couples who have been married before. They tend to be older and have had time to accumulate assets. They may have grown-up children who they want to pass money and homes on to and they want to be protected.
They are once bitten, twice shy. They have already lost money in a previous divorce and they want to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Binding Financial Agreements - as prenups are known formally - became officially recognised by the family courts in Australia seven years ago. Only the division of property and spousal maintenance clauses in a prenup are legally enforceable, not lifestyle clauses.
Relationships Australia vice-president Anne Hollonds warned that prenups could not protect against "life just happening".
LAC Lawyers managing director Frank Egan saidOur firm has handled a fourfold increase in prenups in the past year, particularly among younger, wealthier couples.
It is not unusual now for us to have clients where both the man and the woman are not yet 30 but are each earning six or even seven figures a year, and each has a portfolio of four or five investment properties," he said. "They are hard-working and ambitious and they want to protect what they have got.
"Circumstances change and people change; what happens if you have children, or one of you loses your job, or your priorities alter?" she said. "The other thing with prenups is that they can sometimes protect one person - often the wealthier one - but not the other."
Ms Hollonds said the Family Law Act already sets out how finances should be dealt with in the event of divorce, taking into account things such as the "homemaker" role of a non-earning spouse and the division of future earnings.
Legal and relationship experts agree the key is to talk about thorny issues well before the wedding.
Mr Jackel the Victorian Director of the Shared Parenting Council of Australia saidBoth parties, with independant legal advice, are signing these agreements and we should be cautious in agreeing with relationship Australias 'concerns' expressed by Anne Hollonds, in the above two paragraphs, that could be viwed as yet more evidence of RA's bias in favour of a women advantage in dissemination of assets after pre nuptial agreements are concluded
John Quinn, a senior partner with divorce specialist John R. Quinn & Co saidThe problem is that often people leave it to the last minute to bring up the subject.
Wayne Butler from the Shared Parenmting Council saidIt is very hard to address these sorts of issues early on in a relationship where people are talking about love and having a relationship and the legal aspects of property, shares and related company trasaction are a distraction that dampens things and reeks of mistrust when discussed