Karen Walsh: Clooney didn’t need pre-nup, but you might

George Clooney married his new wife, Amal Alamuddin, without a pre-nuptial agreement. He took a $220m dollar plunge, no pre-nup in sight.
Karen Walsh: Clooney didn’t need pre-nup, but you might

Must be love, romantics say. A brave man, cynics say.

It was naturally assumed an iron-clad pre-marital contract to seal the deal would be signed in advance, but with Amal being a world-class attorney, he probably didn’t have much of a choice.

Clooney must have considered the relatively high risk of exposing his fortune to a messy divorce. Ironically, I think at one stage in his films, he played a divorce lawyer.

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on agriculture, Éamonn Ó’Cuiv, has said, “Farmers and farming in Ireland have long called for pre-nuptial agreements to be recognised in Irish law”.

The fact that these agreements are not recognised has slowed transfer of land, with younger farmers losing out especially.

Recognising pre-nuptial agreements in Irish law is essential, because marriage break-ups are a reality.

One of the major reasons why land is not being transferred to younger farmers is a perceived fear that land held for generations in families may be lost in the event of a marriage break-up. This prevents young farmers from taking over land at an earlier stage, and growing the farm.

The Irish Farmers Association is lobbying to have pre-nuptial agreements recognised in Irish law. The move is part of a push by the farmer lobby group to protect the family farm from being sold off or divided up in the event of a marriage breakdown.

The IFA wants farmers to be allowed to draw up contracts before they get married, to ensure the family farm remains intact post-divorce. This would ensure it is clear that assets owned by both parties before getting married are ring-fenced in a divorce.

Pre-nups should be given a legal footing in the divorce legislation, to assist judges in the division of assets.

While the idea of a pre-nuptial agreement sounds very “Hollywood”, farmers in general could benefit from the protection one could provide.

People are getting married later in life and have acquired more assets than ever prior to marriage. Often, one party has taken over or inherited the family business or farm, which has been in the family for generations, prior to getting married.

A pre-nuptial agreement is a formal agreement which can be drawn up for you and your partner.It sets out how you would divide your assets if you decide to divorce. There is no set format for a pre-nuptial agreement.

The kind used by most couples would be straightforward, and state that the property owned by each party prior to marriage will remain theirs, should the relationship sadly end. It would also set out how property acquired during the relationship should be treated.

Any asset, no matter how big or small, can be included in your pre-nuptial agreement — that could be savings, property, income or even pensions, all of which could be split if you get divorced.

Pre-nuptial agreements cannot be used to make arrangements for children. Only financial matters can be dealt with in the agreement.

If you have acquired wealth, property, savings or inheritance, a pre-nuptial agreement could help provide an extra level of reassurance before entering into a new marriage.

It may be helpful if you have been married before, and want to ensure that any assets you have built up over the years are safeguarded for any existing children’s inheritance.

Even though pre-nuptial agreements are not currently recognised under Irish law, that does not mean that it will always be the case. Each case of course will depend on its own facts and circumstances, and a judge can take it into account at the divorce stage.

It is essential that a pre-nuptial agreement is properly drafted. It is also critical that both parties are independently legally advised. A pre-nuptial agreement should also be reviewed periodically, especially after you have children.

A couple contemplating a pre-nuptial agreement should have a frank discussion about such an agreement at least six months in advance of the anticipated wedding. Both parties can then put the matter behind them, and focus on one of the happiest days of their lives.

It is also essential that both parties provide each other with “full and fair” disclosure of their financial circumstances. Finally, it is critical that both parties have adequate time to read, review or contemplate the agreement, prior to signature.

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