Things I wish I knew before I... Got Married

Weddings can be stressful enough. Organising venues, avoiding family mishaps and funding are just a few stumbling blocks many people come across – but after the wedding, there’s the actual marriage itself.

You will, potentially, spend the rest of your life with this person, and, I think that in itself is quite a thing to comprehend. Many people who end up in my office say things like “we never thought we’d need a pre-nup” or, “we didn’t plan to get divorced”, but then, no one does.

In an earlier blog I wrote that the main driver for pre-nuptial agreements – more commonly known as “pre-nups” – was for wealth protection. However, while many are still turned off by the idea of an unromanticised pre-nup, in the event of a separation, it can still take specifics into consideration. The lesser known post-nuptial agreement, or post-nup, can also do the same thing after you’ve tied the knot.

Whether you choose to marry, enter into a civil partnership or co-habit, where you stand in law can vary. Pre- and post-nups can be set up for those who are getting married or having a civil partnership. However, if you co-habit, the rules remain the same as though you are an individual.

In other words, if you split with a co-habiting partner, but you aren’t married or in a civil partnership, you do not automatically have any rights to any property, assets or finances, whereas, technically, you would in marriage or civil partnership (as long as there was no legal paperwork to state otherwise). That’s why pre- and post-nups can be quite important and they can protect you and your family. It’s why I would always recommend couples discuss the option of a pre-nup, just so that everything is clear in the event of a separation.

For unmarried partners, with or without a pre-nup, your rights in the event of a separation are quite diminished. For a while now, we have been following the law surrounding co-habitation rights, you can read more here as we believe the law should be changed. As it stands, couples can co-habit for many years, decades even, have children, joint accounts and finances, investments – you name it. However, if they are not married or civil partners, they have no automatic entitlement to anything upon separation or even death. It’s also a really good idea, married or not, to make sure your will is up to date.

These are just a few things I come across regularly during my career as a family lawyer. No one thinks they’ll need a pre-nup, until they separate. A bit like no one likes to have car insurance, until they have a crash. The fact is, without any documentation, you have no clarity in the eyes of the law. You hope, just like your car insurance, that you will never need to make a claim, if people treated pre-nups in the same way, perhaps more people would have them.

If you would like more information about your legal rights in marriage or civil partnerships, or you would like to discuss a pre- or post- nuptial agreement with us, contact the Family Law team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.