For Better Or Worse: What’s The Story With Prenups In Ireland?

Here's what you need to know

From gold-diggers and cold-hearted wealthy in-laws in films and TV shows, to the complicated contracts employed by Hollywood A-listers, we’ve all heard about prenuptial agreements, aka prenups.

These controversial agreements set out what would happen if a couple decided to split after the wedding. But it can often seem as though preparing for the end of a marriage is a practice reserved for celebs and highly dramatised rom-com characters.

After all it might make sense for Beyoncé and Jay-Z to make some arrangements for their multi-million dollar empire, while Blair Waldorf ’s restrictive prenup in Gossip Girl (which included a dowry so high, even the Upper East Side’s wealthiest families struggled to pay it off) provided plenty of drama for season 5 of the show.

But IRL most of us have little to no first-hand knowledge of these arrangements. So what are they actually like, outside of the Hollywood bubble?

Well, they look pretty different for us average Joes, especially in Ireland. Pre-nuptial agreements actually have no legal standing in Ireland, although couples are still free to create one before heading down the aisle and present it to a court should their separation get messy, but it won’t be strictly binding.

Essentially, a judge can opt to not enforce it. Generally, they are used as guides for the courts when making their decisions during divorce proceedings. While they don’t have much legal standing, there is a provision which allows for a spouse to renounce their legal right share in a pre-nuptial agreement which means they wavier their automatic inheritance.

As under Irish law, a spouse is automatically entitled to half of the estate if you do not have children and one-third of the estate if you do have children, even if you have a will leaving your estate to someone else. So while prenups can be used to make certain provisions, you probably won’t see any of the out-there setups A-listers opt for.

via Cottonbros Studio

This is mainly because Irish prenups generally have to make “proper provision” for each person for a judge to enforce them, meaning that both people are well looked after. Also assets are not automatically divvied up equally, but instead assessed on a case-by-case basis, to ensure each party is given what they need.

The process of creating the agreement also plays a big role in how the courts will utilise it. Each person should also seek independent legal advice, be completely transparent about their financial details, and the process should be completed well before the wedding, at latest 28 days before saying “I do” to better the chances of the prenup being upheld.

While prenups aren’t currently legally binding, there have been campaigns to change for years now. Law Society Of Ireland recommended they be given legal standing back in 2019. There are plenty of arguments in favour of these agreements, with their supporters highlighting how they can make divorce and separation quicker and less expensive.

Irish prenups also have a lot of value to the farming community, as they can ensure ancestral farmland stay in the family. A 2017 poll from suggested that 72% of farmers are in favour of prenups being made legally binding in Ireland. But it isn’t as clear cut, with those in opposition highlighting how circumstances can change in between when a prenup is signed and when it may come into use, meaning the arrangement may not accurately provide for a party’s new circumstances.

There are also concerns about equality, with our current divorce/separation systems acknowledging that women tend to earn less than their male counterparts, and contribute significantly to childcare and invisible labour, while prenups could derail this effort.

All in all, prenups in Ireland are not like the ones you see in rom-coms and A-list lawsuits. But understanding them is important to ensure you’re protected should you wish to go down that route.


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