Where to start legally after a Valentines Day proposal

For some, planning a wedding is not an easy process. From picking the perfect dress, the venue to organising the caterer, there is a lot to consider before the big day.  What are overlooked are the sensitive issues that can kill the romance in the relationship. No one goes into marriage thinking it might end in divorce, the reality is a risk that it could happen. The process of divorce can be both expensive and unpredictable and a couple should be advised of the practicalities of legally documenting arrangements that can be beneficial to the breakdown of a marriage before saying ‘I do’.

Pre Nuptial Agreements and Post Nuptial Agreements

Pre Nuptial agreements (pre nups) can provide a degree of certainty during what feels like a cumbersome divorce process, and are now an integral part of protecting a persons assets. Such agreements can also be prepared post marriage (post nup) to allow couples to regulate their financial arrangements, both during marriage and after separation.

The court in Radmacher v Granatio stated that the old rule that such agreements were contrary to public policy was obsolete, and should be swept away. Such agreements would not oust the jurisdiction of the court however, and would not prevent one party from arguing in financial order proceedings that he or she should not be held to the terms of the agreement. Whilst such agreements are not formally legally binding, they can carry full weight if both parties enter into it of their own free will, without undue influence or pressure, and are advised of the implications of the same.

The matters that are generally covered in such agreements include:

  1. Separate property assets that were acquired prior to the marriage.
  2. Spousal maintenance.
  3. What happens to the matrimonial home?
  4. Who is responsible for pre marital debts?
  5. How disputes about such agreements are to be resolved (for instance through mediation and arbitration).

The list is not exhaustive, and each agreement will vary depending on the circumstances of each case.

Cohabitation Agreements

Recent statistics reveal that the number of cohabiting couples in the UK is steadily on the rise. The latest statistical bulletin, Household and Families, published by the Office for National Statistics publicised that cohabiting couple families in the UK have doubled from 1.5 million families in 1996 to 3.3 million families in 2016.

Many unmarried couples who have made joint contributions to the finances and responsibilities of maintaining the family home, as well as looking after the children, will not have the same rights as married couples, should the relationship end.

A cohabiting couple can therefore enter into an agreement setting out arrangements which will govern their time spent living together, as well as establishing their rights in the event of a breakdown.

The matters that are generally covered in such agreements include:

  1. Disclosure of financial position
  2. How to deal with any property owned before the relationship
  3. Matters affecting the children
  4. Whether or not there will be joint accounts, separate accounts
  5. Whether one partner will contribute more towards the family home than the other.

Like insurance policies, the documents are generally put aside until they are required; however the costs of preparing these are likely to be far outweighed by the potential benefits of having such  contracts in place.

Thursfields are pleased to offer a 30 minute consultation to all new clients, explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each, in more detail.

For further information, please contact one of our Family Solicitors free of charge, in an office convenient for you.

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