There would be no shame in Harry and Meghan getting a prenup
There will be mugs, there will be tea towels. But will there be a prenuptial agreement?
Yesterday’s announcement that Prince Harry, the fifth in line to the throne, is engaged to Meghan Markle, an American actress, was greeted with the type of Fleet Street cheer which indicates that many commemorative editions are to come.
No one wants to throw a bucket of cold water over the good wishes, but the announced marriage of a famous, wealthy couple is a handy reminder of The Times and Marriage Foundation’s campaign on divorce law, which includes a call for statutory backing for the increasing use of prenuptial agreements.
And while one wishes all the best to Harry and Meghan, there are sadly plenty of examples of picture-perfect couples who flooded social media but ended up separating.
You know the type of posts: date-night this or breakfast-in-bed that. It all looks great until it becomes obvious that they had been pretending and ultimately could not continue “to fake it to make it”.
This social media fakery was illustrated in the divorce this year of the singer Fergie from the actor Josh Duhamel. While Fergie was filing for divorce, she was posting photographs of her seemingly perfect life with Josh on Instagram.
Social media is often the subject of knee-jerk criticism, but perhaps it really is detrimental to marriage. It has created relationship fairy tales, which may be fuelling tensions between couples that are chasing #CoupleGoals, as well as contributing to the rise in divorce. In 2016, divorce increased by nearly 6 per cent, with an estimated 42 per cent of all marriages in England and Wales ending in separation.
This is not to suggest that those couples were never in love, just that all is not what it seems. You never see the true picture unless you are one of the parties to the relationship, or that person’s lawyer.
And at a time where dating apps are the new normal and where we may fall for someone without knowing who they really are, prenuptial agreements are becoming increasingly popular.
The landmark case of Radmacher v Granatino has set the precedent. To use house insurance as an analogy, just because you take out a policy does not mean you move in expecting the property to burn down. Prenups create a procedure that tries to make the painful process of divorce easier and to relieve couples of the difficult task of dividing assets.
There is no denying that amid the giddiness of an engagement the question of “how much are you worth?” seems unromantic. But in an age when “happily ever after” is becoming rarer and rarer, it is beneficial to think practically and manage expectations. In the unhappy event that the marriage breaks down, it will help in the long term.
As the film Some Like It Hot draws to an end, Jack Lemmon’s character tears off his wig and admits: “I’m a man”. The classic rejoinder “nobody’s perfect” follows. No one is perfect and sometimes divorce is no one’s fault.
Hetty Gleave is a partner at the London law firm Hunters. Rebecca Christie, an assistant at the firm, contributed to this article.
This article was originally published in The Times Law Brief and can be accessed here.