Almost twice as many marriage contracts are drawn up and signed by couples after they are already married as do so before the wedding, according to figures from Fednot, the federation of notaries.
Under Belgian law, unless arrangements are made to the contrary, once a couple are married all of their income goes into a common pot, so to speak, of which each owns a notional 50%. Their property from before the marriage, however, remains their own, including bequests and inheritances for which the person was eligible before the wedding.
If for any reason that arrangement does not suit the couple, they can consult a notary who, after discussing the matter, can draw up a contract that meets the couple’s wishes. About one in four couples do so.
In English such a contract is known as a pre-nuptial agreement or pre-nup for short, but as Fednot reports, in Belgium many more such contracts are drawn up post-nup than pre-nup.
In 2019, 12,844 marriage contracts were signed by couples about to be married; but there were 23,914 contracts signed by couples who were already married.
“Existing couples often opt for the separation of goods, if they have been married before and/or have children from previous relationships,” explained Bart Van Opstal, spokesperson for the notaries’ federation. “The fact that couples increasingly opt for this regime is a logical result of the fact that there are more and more differently-composed families. Someone who remarries often decides to share their property.”
In most cases, however, contracts involve only small changes to the legal base arrangement. “In most cases it’s partners who introduce a choice clause into the contract. That means the surviving partner can, on the death of the other, choose which property he or she wants to take out of the common pot, and which may be passed on to the children,” Van Opstal said. That situation, he said, differs markedly from the standard legal arrangement, by which the surviving partner has to share the major part of the property of the deceased partner with any children from the present or any previous marriage.