A relationship agreement is a legal document which can set out financial expectations within the relationship, and document what couples wish to happen in the unfortunate event of a relationship breakdown further down the line. Cohabitation agreements can help couples who live together set out their agreement and nuptial agreements can be entered into by individuals who are getting married or entering a civil partnership, or who are already married or in a civil partnership.
Pre and post nuptial agreements
When should I think about a nuptial agreement?
There are many reasons that couples enter into these agreements e.g. perhaps they have built up wealth prior to the relationship e.g. re-marrying later in life, through business ventures or from family inheritance, or they have significant future inheritance prospects. They may have children from a previous relationship that they wish to protect their assets for. Nuptial agreements can also be a requirement of partnership agreements e.g. in a family farming scenario to try and protect the assets of a farm or business being broken up if a partner or shareholder separates. If your financial circumstances significantly change due to a new business venture or inheritance whilst you are married, a post nuptial agreement could be a useful option. Generally, where there is significant property or asset that couples wish to keep separate from the marriage pot, these types of agreements can be useful in documenting intentions and seeking to ring-fence a particular asset.
How does the court view nuptial agreements in the event of a relationship breakdown?
Nuptial agreements should adhere to a number of important criteria to give them the best chance of being upheld in the unfortunate event of a permanent separation. Both individuals must enter into the agreement without pressure and with a full understanding of the rights they are giving up or the obligations they are entering into. Independent legal advice is usually important in achieving this. It is important that the agreement is fundamentally fair and makes provision which meets the needs of both individuals and any children, so a nuptial agreement will not be appropriate in all circumstances. The court has the final say on a nuptial agreement if one partner seeks to dispute whether it is fair and therefore whether its terms should be followed.
It is important that these agreements are discussed early to avoid any suggestion of undue pressure or the terms being negotiated too close to the ceremony. In some situations, it may be more appropriate to enter into a post-ceremony agreement instead.
If you are looking to live with your new partner and you are purchasing a house or perhaps moving into one of your existing properties, a cohabitation agreement could seek to clarify your intentions with the ownership of the property, contributions to the relationship, ongoing living costs and to set out what should happen if you decided to separate further down the line. In the event of a dispute about your intentions with your property, these agreements act as clear evidence early on.
It is important that your will is kept under regular review to make sure it accurately reflects your wishes. If you are entering into a relationship agreement, you may also want to consider updating your will to provide similar provision for your partner in the unfortunate event that you were to pass away. For example, if you are seeking to protect assets for your children from a previous relationship, your will can reflect the provisions within your relationship agreement to make sure your partner and children receive your assets in due course as planned.
If you would like to discuss a relationship agreement with our specialist family team then please do get in touch