Every year, the media draws our attention to ‘Divorce D-Day’ – reckoned to be Monday of the first full working week in January.
In theory, this is the day when (with Christmas out of the way, the kids back at school and New Year’s resolutions focused on relationship issues), disaffected couples are most likely to pick up the phone to a divorce lawyer.
So, how has our team of family lawyers geared up for 8th January? It’s true we expect to see an increase in divorce and separation enquiries at the start of the year. Yet we expect as many, if not more enquiries from savvy couples about pre-marital agreements. Having decided over the festive season to move in together or get engaged, they want to know how to avoid the unpleasantness, uncertainty and cost of a divorce should the relationship fail.
Planning a wedding brings its own stresses and the discussion surrounding a potential pre-marital agreement can be right up there! Though it may seem unromantic, it’s become far more socially acceptable. Where one partner has substantial assets to protect, pre-martial or cohabitation agreements can be a very effective way of limiting the financial risk to the wealthier partner, whilst protecting the needs of the financially weaker partner should the relationship fail.
In England and Wales pre-marital agreements are not strictly binding, but subject to certain safeguards being met from the outset, they can make a big difference to a divorce settlement. Both parties in a couple about to marry must consider how future circumstances could affect the fairness of a prenuptial agreement – for example, one having to give up a career to bring up the children, the marriage lasting many years or the impact of starting a business together. There are many possibilities and advice at the outset is invaluable. Our top tip is to take advice early, preferably at least six months before the wedding. Each agreement is bespoke and takes time to get right, if it’s to be handled sensitively and without pressure.