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Would You Marry Without a Prenup? We Look At The Law

by Jeanne Sutton
19th Jul 2014

Cheryl has spurned legal protection in the wake of her whirlwind marriage, would you?

Cheryl Cole shocked everyone last week when she unexpectedly married her French boyfriend, the restaurateur Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini. The British singer announced her official couple state with a post on the social media site Facebook – accompanied by the obligatory filtered shot of the both the wedding and engagement rings – and has garnered over a quarter of a million likes to date. When Cheryl is happy, we’re happy. Cole ne? Tweedy generated even more headlines with her decision to spurn a prenuptial agreement with Jean-Bernard. She did the same when marrying Premier League footballer Ashley Cole. Considering Cheryl is one of the UK’s biggest female artists with a net worth of over €20 million euro was it foolish of her to forego this very modern tradition? Or is the dreaded prenuptial agreement on the wane?

The recent history of Hollywood romance is rife with tales of backroom divorce deals where tolerant wives get paid for each year of marriage, as set out in clinical legal documents. Katie Holmes reportedly received $3 million for every year she was married to Tom Cruise. The Dawson’s Creek actress is also allegedly subject to non-disclosure agreement about the marriage. Meanwhile actresses such as Jessica Biel and Nicole Kidman see themselves taken care of and protected if their spouse strays or relapses respectively.

Prenuptial agreements make sense in these kinds of scenarios, where careers and fortunes are stratospheric. However, some starlets with serious earning power are starting to spurn legal protection of their assets. Reese Witherspoon didn’t sign one for either of her marriages. During divorce proceedings for her marriage to Ryan Philippe she requested he be denied alimony and the court respected this appeal. Katy Perry is another woman who didn’t opt for a prenuptial agreement prior to her high-profile marriage to Russell Brand in 2010. While Perry earned $44 million that year, Brand did not take advantage of her earning power when it came to their painful yet amicable separation. Some women aren’t so lucky. Madonna reportedly paid a fifth of her half a billion fortune to Guy Ritchie when they separated. Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears have also found themselves paying exes significant sums when ending marriages.

While we’re certainly not on the same tax bracket as any of those women, we got barrister Ross Aylward on the phone to talk us through the actualities of prenuptials in Ireland and how women can protect their fortunes here. ?There’s no law saying to you can’t get a prenup?, he explains. However when you wind up in the family courts warring with that significant other over assets, the court isn’t required to give any such prenuptial agreement that much regard. In Ireland there is no clear legislation on the issue, although there has been rumblings since 2007 about legislation. While Aylward maintains that ?anecdotally? prenuptials have been a factor in Irish divorce settlements, the in camera and case by case nature of the family courts means these cases remain private and not on the public record, creating a vacuum of awareness for couples wishing to explore the option of signing one. In short, there’s absolutely no 100% guarantee that that lovely guy you married won’t try and take you to the cleaners when things take a turn. Although we think Cheryl doesn’t have to fear her Frenchman. Afterall, he did buy those two rings, worth a pretty €300,000 combined.

What do you think? Should prenups be mandatory? Or is all fair in love and divorce courts?


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