Guide to personal partnerships and agreements
Blake Morgan's specialist Family law team are experienced in advising couples on the details of a range of agreements and partnerships agreements.
The Civil Partnership Act came into force on 5 December 2005 and enables same-sex couples, following a formal registration of the relationship, to enjoy similar benefits to married couples in areas such as personal taxation, pension and inheritance.
Civil partnerships can be dissolved after one year. Civil partners can make financial claims against each other in respect of income, assets and pensions on dissolution, in the same way as provision is made on divorce.
We are able to guide you through any planning before entering into a civil partnership, such as pre-partnership agreements, personal finance and inheritance tax planning and issues following the end of a civil partnership.
Pre-nuptial or pre-marriage agreements
A pre-nuptial agreement (also known as a pre-marital agreement) is a written agreement between a couple intending to marry that sets out how their assets should be shared in the event that their marriage ends in divorce. Generally, pre-nuptial agreements are considered of use where one person has substantially more wealth than the other and wishes to protect this. A pre-nuptial agreement is particularly useful when there is a business involved, where there are inherited assets, or when the interests of children from previous relationships need to be protected.
Pre-nuptial agreements are not yet legally binding in England and Wales but are persuasive and provide evidence of intent, thus allowing weight to be placed upon them by the court if the marriage later fails.
The court will take a number of factors into account when deciding how much weight to add to a pre-nuptial agreement, such as:
- were the parties properly advised as to the terms of the agreement – did they seek independent legal advice?
- was either party put under any pressure to sign it?
- would any injustice be done now by holding the parties to the terms of the agreement?
A pre-nuptial agreement must be entered into well in advance of a wedding and both individuals must have had the opportunity to obtain independent legal advice. Detailed financial disclosure is an essential prerequisite.
We have expertise in dealing with divorce and separation issues involving equestrian assets, farms or inherited property. Pre-nuptial agreements are also recommended in these situations before marriage.
Living together agreements
Living together agreements set out the day to day financial arrangements involved in cohabitation and can assist in protecting both parties from some of the consequences of later separation. Living with a partner can have serious financial consequences if the relationship breaks down, particularly if the consequences of financial contributions to a property have not been properly thought through. There is no such thing as "common-law" marriage, no matter how long the relationship has lasted.
A living together agreement is contractually binding and can be made at any point during the time when a couple is living together, although it is better if it is drawn up at the outset.
The agreement can cover how the couple will live together in practice and helps outline what their expectations are of each other. The agreement also prompts couples to think about how the finances will be split, who pays for what and who owns what (personal possessions/contents/cars etc). A living together agreement can also include reference to who will take responsibility for and support any children.
The court will generally follow the agreement if both parties were honest about their finances at the time it was drawn up and if it is a fair result for both parties. The court is also more likely to uphold a living together agreement if both parties took independent legal advice as to wording that was used.
The agreement should deal with what will happen to sole and jointly-owned property and assets in the event that the relationship breaks down. This can include business assets, inheritances, gifts, motor cars, debts, life insurance, pensions, living expenses and provisions on death.
A living together agreement cannot cover every eventuality, but will provide a useful framework if the relationship breaks down in the future and can stipulate areas where no claims can be made, for example. This is particularly important when a business or house was owned by one party before moving
What are the benefits of entering into such an agreement?
If you have an agreement and then separate, a properly drafted document can assist in resolving the financial distribution of assets in accordance with the original intentions outlined in the agreement. It can help with the distribution of assets and ownership of property that may otherwise cause a dispute and potentially require the involvement of the courts.