Hundreds of Live-In Couples Rushto Sign 'Pre-Nup' Contracts

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Byline: JANE SIMPSON

THEY are the legal contracts favoured by celebrities desperate not to lose a fortune if their marriage ends in divorce.

But now hundreds of Scots are rushing to take out 'prenuptial'-style agreements following new legislation that gives cohabiting couples the same rights as those who are married.

Lawyers across the country say they have been flooded with inquiries from unmarried Scots anxious to protect their assets with cohabitation contracts, which can be used in court in the event of a split.

Scotland's largest family law firm has already received almost 200 inquires from people seeking cohabitation contracts since the Family Law (Scotland) Act came into force on May 4.

Other lawyers have sent thousands of letters advising unmarried clients to take the unromantic step of protecting their belongings with the contracts.

Although couples have always had the option of drafting such documents, there was previously little need as they were treated as separate individuals. Under the Act, however, which has also cut the time it takes to get divorced, their assets are being linked, similar to the situation between husband and wife.

The resultant flood of contracts echoes the celebrity craze for prenuptial agreements, such as the one famously taken out by confirmed sexaddict Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones when they wed in 1999.

The couple, due to be in Scotland this week when Douglas receives an honorary degree from St Andrews University, agreed the mother-of-two would get [pounds sterling]2.5 million for each infidelity discovered.

Rachel Kelsey of Edinburgh practice Mowat Hall Dick, which has Scotland's biggest family law team, said the firm had been inundated with inquiries about cohabitation contracts.

She added: 'The new law gives people who live together the same rights as married couples and there has been a flood of enquiries from people looking to contract out of it.

'The legislation has not taken into account that these people may not wish to be treated as husband and wife.

'Now we have this strange situation where people who are perfectly happy cohabiting with one another are coming to lawyers to legally state who owns what within the partnership. …