17 February 2014, The Tablet

Prenups would empty marriage vows of meaning, warns bishop

The Bishop of Shrewsbury has attacked plans to make pre-nuptial agreements legally binding in England and Wales.

Such contracts would rob traditional marriage vows of their meaning, Bishop Mark Davies warned, adding that they effectively require couples to prepare a divorce settlement before their wedding.

Pre-nuptial agreements, which allow unmarried couples to protect some assets against any future divorce settlement, are catching on in the United States, and could become enforceable in England and Wales under new proposals drafted by the Law Commission.

At present pre-nuptial agreements are not legally enforceable in England and Wales but can be taken into consideration during divorce proceedings.

During a Mass at St Columba’s Church in Chester on Saturday for couples celebrating a major wedding anniversary this year, Bishop Davies argued that pre-nuptial contracts make the promise to stay together “till death do we part” a provisional one.

“It is a legal provision which would surely empty the words of the marriage promise for ‘better for worse … to love and to cherish till death do we part’ of all meaning,” he said. “Pre-nuptial agreements would render these promises provisional by the legal preparations which anticipate divorce.”

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