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COVID-19 and pre-nuptial agreements 12/10/2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many engaged couples to make significant changes to their wedding plans. One recent survey of couples with weddings planned between September 2020 and January 2021 found that although 95% were opting not to cancel, nearly three-quarters were rescheduling their wedding to late 2021 or 2022 and the remaining couples intending to hold micro weddings to meet the guest restrictions on their original wedding date.

Alongside the effect on weddings, the pandemic is also impacting the validity of pre-nuptial agreements. These are legal agreements that set out marrying couples' intentions relating to the division of assets – such as property, debt, income and pensions – in the event that the marriage later breaks down. Although they are not automatically legally binding in the UK under current legislation, a Judge is likely to uphold such agreement in a divorce case providing that it has been entered into freely by the parties, who have each received independent legal advice, and is fair and contractually valid. Recent case law also indicates that the weight attached to arrangements enshrined in pre-nuptial by courts is increasing.

Pre-nuptial agreements must be finalised, that is signed by both parties having each received independent legal advice, at least 28 days prior to the wedding. Most pre-nuptial agreements specify a window of between 6 and 12 months following the planned wedding date in which it will still be valid to account for postponements. For some couples COVID-19 will have delayed their wedding beyond this window, and those in this situation should seek urgent legal advice in order to revise and maintain the document's validity. Of course, unexpected delays also give couples who have not entered into a pre-nuptial agreement the opportunity to do so before their wedding takes place.

The agreed upon arrangements specified in a pre-nuptial agreement made before the pandemic may no longer be fair if one or both parties' financial position has altered significantly as a result of the pandemic. If your assets have reduced in value, or your job security has been affected, this should be communicated to your future spouse for arrangements to be reviewed and amended if appropriate. It is, however, important to note that courts test the fairness of the division of marital assets at the point of divorce rather than marriage and that both parties' circumstances at that time will be taken into account in order to arrive at a decision regarding division. Regularly updating a pre-nuptial agreement is strongly advised to ensure the terms of the agreement remain relevant and fair in law.

For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.

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Manor Law Ltd, trading as Manor Law Family Solicitors, is a registered company in England and Wales - number 7977350, and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority - Hertford office SRA number 567506 and City of London office SRA number 568637. Copyright © Manor Law, 2016. All rights reserved.
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