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What to consider following a Valentine’s Day engagement Family Law

What to consider following a Valentine’s Day engagement

14/02/2024

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Perhaps you are popping the question on Valentine’s Day this year? If so, you are not alone. It is thought that around 40% of people consider Valentine’s Day to be the best day of the year to propose.

With all of the joy and happiness that an engagement can bring, it can be easy to forget that marriage is a legally binding contact and that by saying “I do”, a legal tie is created between you and your new spouse.

 

The legal implications of marriage

Many marry without an understanding of the legal implications, particularly in relation to the finances. Once you have tied the knot, your new spouse is entitled to financial remedy on any subsequent divorce and may be entitled to a claim over your assets, including pension, income and other property.

In the unfortunate event that a marriage does break down, the division of finances is often the main source of disagreement and can cause both parties unease. Such issues can be addressed before they arise if a prenuptial agreement is drawn up in advance of the marriage.

 

Prenuptial agreements

Prenuptial agreements are entered into by couples before they marry, and usually cover how finances are to be dealt with if their relationship were to break down.

The purpose is often to protect assets that were acquired prior to the marriage taking place, which can be particularly important when an individual is wealthy or has significant pre-marital assets. However, prenuptial agreements are not solely reserved for the rich and famous. Some enter into them with the intention of safeguarding future inheritance or protecting a business asset that was built up without the input of the other person. Whereas others may wish to enter into a prenuptial agreement simply to set clear expectations in relation to their finances on divorce in advance of the marriage.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ agreement and how prenuptial agreements are drafted will depend on individual circumstances.

 

Are they legally binding?

Currently, prenuptial agreements are not recognised by Statute in England and Wales. However, they can carry substantial weight with the court when it comes to resolving disputes about the finances on divorce and are becoming more widely relied upon and upheld.

Case law is clear that if an agreement is drafted correctly, and is freely entered into by both parties with a full appreciation of its implications, the court are likely to uphold the terms unless the terms of the agreement are found to be unfair.

To increase the prospect of the agreement being upheld, both parties should set out their financial circumstances in full at the time that the agreement is being prepared (known as financial disclosure), and both should take independent legal advice on the prenuptial agreement and its implications. The agreement should be finalised in good time before the wedding (this should be 28 days prior) so that neither party feels any undue pressure, the agreement is not rushed and there is a sufficient period of negotiation between the parties to finalise the terms of the agreement.

 

Conclusion

Prenuptial agreements have a reputation for taking the romance out of an engagement, but we as family lawyers always have the legal and financial consequences of marriage at the back of our minds.

Whilst no one gets engaged anticipating that their relationship will end in divorce, having a prenuptial agreement in place can avoid the time, expense and stress experienced if this were to happen later down the line. By agreeing in advance how assets should be dealt with, it can make it significantly easier to settle post-marital financial affairs.

 

For confidential, trusted advice about prenuptial agreements, contact Jess Nicholson on jfnicholson@mincoffs.co.uk  or visit our family law page.

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