Dutton Gregory Banner Image
News and Events

Are Online Pre-Nups Ticking People Off?

  • Posted
Are Online Pre-Nups Ticking People Off?

Whist the internet has brought us 24/7 shopping, next day deliveries and cheaper prices, has our perception of value and support been changed by our newly found autonomy? Sarah Bennett-Pearce from the Family Team at Dutton Gregory Solicitors asks where advice, knowledge and experience sit in modern purchase culture.

"From my experience, good legal services provide the couples and families who need them two things: peace of mind and the way to move forward with their lives. The guidance to achieve these outcomes comes from time spent with, and the knowledge of legal professionals who have years of study and experience in handling hugely emotive situations.

The long-awaited and much-discussed introduction of 'No Fault Divorce' last year, giving a couple the opportunity to end their marriage themselves, has appeal to those looking to reduce the cost of separation, and now Pre-Nuptial Agreements are following suit.

A client of the firm recently asked me whether she should use a firm to put together a Pre-Nuptial Agreement for her and her fiancée, or whether an online generated agreement would suffice. She was about to re-marry and wanted to protect her assets and future inheritance for her children.

The notion of a 'Pre-Nuptial Agreement Form' made me question how effective such a practice would be without conversation, exploration, and advice. After some investigation, the majority took a 'tick box' questionnaire format and not in the detail I was expecting.

I had so many questions. Would an individual know what needed to be included in an agreement? Was there any pressure being exerted from behind the computer screen? What if an answer was more complicated than ticking a simple 'yes' or 'no'?

After reading online reviews, there was repeated mention of certain issues - no one being available to ask questions and the service taking longer than anticipated.  Should we be surprised? You are not paying for the interaction, you are paying for the agreement, you are ticking boxes with the hope that it formulates an agreement that best suit your situation. If you think you need personal advice, this service was never for you.

As a result of No-Fault Divorce, we have seen an increasing number of individuals who feel disadvantaged over, and want to address matrimonial finances, especially pension divisions. Finalising a divorce in this manner does not automatically severe a financial claim, and we are seeing former spouses making and defending financial claims which are perfectly valid without a legal Financial Order. I think it likely online pre-nups will head the same way.

Each relationship and situation are different, and computers, AI and tick boxes will not recognise individual circumstance. Nor will they tell you if any settlement and calculations will be able to meet your needs.

Communication is key. Spouses need to consider assets, debts, existing and future children, before getting professional advice on calculations, agreement terms and possible interpretation, for the present and future.

I cannot foresee a 'one size fits all' Pre-Nuptial Agreement. Not if they need to be held up in Court. I cannot see how specific legal questions can be addressed in auto-generated comments by a chatbot.  The potential for false economy is far worse than No Fault Divorce, when a set fee fails to cover needs, give protection, and needs far more complicated legal services to untangle a mess.

Legal documents should be as bespoke and individual as the people they serve, tailoring to needs and circumstances, and that can never be achieved with the tick of a box.