Are pre-nuptial agreements unromantic?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
March 15, 2023, 9:29 AM GMT+0

Britons are split, with older people more likely to think so than younger people

Pre-nuptial agreements are not actually legally binding in England and Wales, but they have certainly been popularised by TV and movies. But what does the British public make of them?

Britons are more likely to see pre-nuptial agreements as a good idea (42%) than a bad one (13%). Another 25% see them as neither good nor bad, with the remaining 20% unsure.

Given that pre-nuptial agreements are most stereotypically associated with wealthy men trying to prevent their wives from taking a substantial portion of their fortune upon divorce, it is perhaps surprising to see that women are noticeably more likely to see pre-nups as a good idea (47%) than men (38%).

Younger Britons are also more likely to see them as an actively good idea than their elders: 46-47% of the under-50 age groups say so, compared to 37% aged 65 and above. Older Britons are more likely to see them in neutral terms (29% of the over-50 age groups say they are neither good nor bad) than younger Britons.

How many Britons would prefer to get a pre-nuptial agreement?

Despite 42% of Britons seeing pre-nups as a good idea, only around half as many (22%) say that if they were getting married for the first time now they would prefer to have a pre-nuptial agreement.

By contrast, four in ten (42%) say they would prefer not to get a pre-nup – a further 22% are unsure and 14% say they never want to get married in the first place.

Younger people are more willing to say they would prefer a pre-nup than their elders, mirroring their increased belief that they are a good idea. Yet despite women being more likely to see them as a good idea than men, there is not a gender divide at the top line, with 22% of men and 23% of women saying they would prefer one.

However, when you break the gender results down by income, a pattern emerges. Women become somewhat more likely to say they would prefer a pre-nuptial agreement the more money they earn: while 20% of women earning under £20,000 a year say they would prefer to get a pre-nuptial agreement, this rises to 32% of those earning £60,000 a year or more.

By contrast, the most money a man earns the more likely they are to say they would prefer not to have a pre-nup. While 37% of men earning less than £20,000 a year say they want a pre-nuptial agreement, this rises to 53% of those making £40,000-59,999 a year, and 52% of those earning £60,000 a year or more.

Do people think pre-nupital agreements are unromantic?

But is asking for a pre-nup a distinctly unromantic thing to do? How would Britons feel if their intended was to ask them to sign one?

Three in ten (31%) say that their fiancée asking for a pre-nup would make them feel worse about their relationship, including 10% who say they would feel “much worse” about it.

A similar number (29%) say it wouldn’t make a difference, with most of the rest unsure (22%).

Older Britons are more likely to take offence at being asked for a pre-nup, with 35% of the over-50s saying so compared to 29% of those aged 25-49 and 15% of 18-24 year olds. By contrast, there is little difference in attitudes between men and women.

Do people think pre-nups make divorce more likely?

While many would feel worse at receiving a pre-nup request, far fewer think that they actually make it more likely that a marriage or civil partnership breaks down. Just 15% think that knowledge of what would happen financially if a marriage ended increases the chance of divorce, with 51% believing it makes no difference.

Men are more likely than women to think that pre-nups are harbingers of marriage doom, by 19% to 10%.

Younger people are slightly more confident than older people in thinking that they actually reduce the chances of divorce, at 15% of 18-24 year olds compared to 4% of those aged 65 and above.