Agreements at the beginning of a relationship

Pre-marital Agreements

Post-marital Agreements

Cohabitation Agreements

Increasingly, couples are choosing to set out in an agreement at the start of their relationship what they want to happen if that relationship breaks down.  While at the moment these agreements are not technically binding in the UK, following the decision of Radmacher v Granatino they can carry significant weight. We expect that these agreements will be legally binding in the UK within the next few years.

We have a wealth of experience of preparing relationship agreements. Broadly these fall into the following categories:

Pre-marital Agreements

It is becoming common for individuals to enter into a pre-marital agreement (i.e. an agreement before they are married), which sets out the possible outcomes in the event that they separate.  There are many reasons why people enter into pre-marital agreements.  It may be that one person is involved in a company, trust fund, is a beneficiary of a trust, or co-owns a property. Alternatively, both parties have been married before or have children whose inheritance they wish to protect.  Whatever the reason, if these agreements are considered fair by the court and have been properly negotiated with both parties having access to legal advice, they are increasingly likely to be upheld by the court. We have a wealth of experience in advising on pre-marital agreements, and have been involved in reported cases, such as BN v MA [2013], a case in which the High Court upheld the pre-nuptial agreement that had been drafted by this firm.

“They are an eminent firm for prenuptial agreements. They bring a lot of humanity to their work, which you need for matrimonial work.”

Post-marital Agreement

These agreements are entered into after a marriage and, in the same way as pre-nuptial agreements, set out what both spouses want to happen in the event that the marriage breaks down.  Although they are not currently 100% legally binding, if they have been entered into in accordance with the criteria laid down by the Courts, the parties are very likely to be held to the terms of that agreement.

Cohabitation Agreement

Many couples decide that they do not want to get married, but live together as a family. However, without the protection of the law that has been specifically designed to cope with family matters, cohabitees can find that they are embroiled in disputes under land law if their relationships break down, and without access to their partner’s assets if their partner has died.  Myths such as that of the common law wife are not helpful – as no such protection actually exists in this country.

While there is a general move to provide cohabitees with more legal rights in the event of the separation of the parties (as shown recently in a Supreme Court case, Re: an application by Brewster for judicial review (Northern Ireland) [2017], which considered that cohabitees should have rights to their partners’ pensions), cohabitees do not enjoy the same protection as spouses or civil partners. Accordingly, many cohabitees prefer to set out in the agreement what they intend to happen in the event that their relationship does break down. This means that there is clarity and protection for both parties. It also provides alternative routes to resolving issues that may arise. We regularly draft cohabitation agreements for a range of clients and will be happy to assist you with yours.