Growing support for pre-nuptial agreements

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The Independent Online

Pre-nuptial agreements are growing in popularity, with one-quarter of the population saying they would be happy to marry a partner who insisted on them signing one, a survey has found.

Pre-nuptial agreements are growing in popularity, with one-quarter of the population saying they would be happy to marry a partner who insisted on them signing one, a survey has found.

A further 8 per cent of those questioned in the NOP poll said they would be in favour under certain circumstances.

In general, men responded more favourably than women. But when the interviewees were told to answer the question knowing they had an inheritance or substantial wealth to protect, more women than men said they would demand a pre-nuptial contract.

Londoners appeared to be the most cautious lovers, with one-third saying they would use a pre-nuptial agreement to protect their assets.

Pre-nuptial agreements, or pre-love contracts, are not legally binding in this country. The Law Commission is currently considering their potential usefulness along with a range of other issues under the general theme of cohabitation.

Nevertheless, a pre-nuptial will help couples divide their assets following an amicable breakdown in the relationship. And if a marital dispute does get to court the judge has discretion to use the contract as evidence of the intent of the parties.

One company hoping to cash in on the public's growing acceptance of the usefulness of pre-nuptials is Desktop Lawyer, the internet service which provided the first ever on-linedivorce.

To mark Valentine's Day the company is launching a pre-nuptial agreement over the internet. "This is good news for all those cautious lovers out there who plan to pop the question on Valentine's Day," said Richard Cohen, legal director of Epoch Software, which has developed the on-line pre-nuptial service. "Our pre-nuptial agreement will allow people to make a record of their financial circumstances before marrying, and under current law a judge may or may not decide to take notice of this."

Mr Cohen predicted that over the next 10 years, the proportion of British couples signing pre-nuptial contracts will rise to 20 per cent.