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Do Harry and Meghan need a pre-nup?

Even if “All the stars were aligned,” as Prince Harry says of his love for Meghan Markle, the best matches sometimes collide with Mars.

With over 40% of marriages still ending in divorce, pragmatism should prevail and the happy couple would be wise to take separate independent advice about a “pre-nup”. As an American - and a divorcee -  the future bride is unlikely to be surprised by such a suggestion not least as pre-nups are much more prevalent in the US than on this side of the pond. Indeed, she may welcome it as a means of reassuring Prince Harry and his family that she is marrying him for love and not for money. Given that Miss Markle is giving up a lucrative acting career to marry her prince, she may also want reassurance that her future is financially secure particularly as she may struggle to pick up where she left off if the marriage does not work out.

Pre-nups can be transformed into post-nups after the wedding and, as time goes by and a couple becomes more secure, perhaps following the birth of a child or children, the agreement can easily evolve to accommodate these changes. 

A stumbling block for Prince Harry may be a reluctance to provide full and frank disclosure of his financial circumstances which is now an integral part of any pre-nuptial agreement. If so, he should still be made aware of an obscure provision in our law, which is that an engagement ring is treated as an absolute gift - - unless it can be proved that the ring was given on the condition that it would be returned if the engagement is broken off.  In a divorce, the ring is part of the wife's assets and there is no automatic legal requirement for it to be returned. Prince Harry’s advisors may wish to clarify this if they want to ensure that Princess Diana's diamonds, set in Miss Markle's engagement ring, are kept in the family, either by way of an express agreement now and/or ideally as part of a pre-nuptial agreement. 

Even though pre-nups are still not legally binding in this jurisdiction, they have the power to influence the outcome of a financial settlement decisively on divorce if all the appropriate safeguards have been followed.

If this all sounds far too 21st-century, it’s worth remembering that the aim of pre-nuptial agreements was, and has always been, to promote harmony - at least for a thousand years. 

Read more about pre and post-nuptial agreements here.

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