Legal considerations prior to marriage

3 July 2020

This week, the government has announced measures to lift the current prohibition on wedding ceremonies in England. From 4 July, wedding ceremonies of up to 30 people can take place, providing that strict guidelines are followed in order to adhere to social distancing rules.

While for some couples this is a very welcome move, for others these limitations will not enable them to have the wedding they had envisaged. Instead, they are choosing to postpone the wedding to a later date.

Either way, now that ceremonies can take place again, it is important to think about some of the key legal considerations, prior to getting married or entering into a civil partnership.

Nuptial Agreements

A Pre-Nuptial Agreement is a legal document which both parties can enter into, prior to the marriage or civil partnership, which specifies how your assets are to be divided, should the marriage subsequently break down.

Pre-Nuptial Agreements can therefore provide a degree of certainty, protection and clarity - for example, to ring-fence inherited or pre-acquired wealth. Entering into a Pre-Nuptial Agreement could therefore potentially avoid disputes regarding the division of the assets at the time of divorce.

Pre-Nuptial Agreements are not technically legally binding. However, the landmark case of Radmacher  v  Granatino [2010] UKSC 42 provided that if the agreement has been freely entered into, with both parties fully appreciating the implications, the court should duly give effect to the Agreement, unless it would be unfair to do so.

Other crucial factors when considering the weight afforded to the Pre-Nuptial Agreement include: both parties entering into full financial disclosure; having the benefit of legal advice; entering into the Agreement within a reasonable time before the wedding and whether the agreement is fair and reasonable in all of the circumstances.

You must bear in mind that it can take time to negotiate the terms of the Agreement and both parties must have sufficient time in order to consider and receive legal advice upon those terms. The Law Commission recommend that the Agreement is signed at least 28 days before the wedding. In light of these factors, it is important that you seek legal advice from a family lawyer at the earliest opportunity, to ensure that your affairs are in order in advance of the 'Big Day'.

If you have an existing Pre-Nuptial Agreement in place and have decided to postpone your wedding; this may need to be revised, depending on how the terms of the Agreement were drafted. You should therefore seek legal advice if you have any concerns in this regard.

It is possible to enter into an Agreement after the marriage or civil partnership and these are termed 'Post–Nuptial Agreements.' They work in largely the same way as Pre-Nuptial Agreements, except that they are entered into afterwards.

Our expert team of specialist family solicitors are on hand to assist you during these unprecedented times. If you would like further information or would like to arrange an appointment, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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