Valentine’s Day is supposed to be the most romantic day of the year says Family Law in Partnership associate, Vanessa Asante, and whilst many people will be purchasing their loved one flowers or chocolates, there will also be plenty who will be carefully (and no doubt nervously) selecting an engagement ring for their other half and who will be gearing up to propose on Valentine’s Day. It is of course one of the most popular days of the year to get engaged.

Whilst an engagement is one of the most wonderful times in a couples’ relationship, and there will be lots to think about and organise in the run-up to the impending wedding. Couples should take time out to think about providing themselves with the tools to help them cope with the difficulties that married life brings and how to deal with the practicalities of what should happen in the unfortunate event that the marriage comes to an end.

Pre-marital counselling

There is of course no manual that comes with being married. Pre-marital counselling can often help a couple to have open conversations about their expectations, priorities, hopes and concerns for their marriage. It often helps to identify potential dividing issues which could arise in the future such as money management and finances, having children, sex and intimacy and diverging career goals, in order to find a way to deal with any conflict in a constructive manner. Topics such as communication, trust and compromise can be explored to help the couple gain a deeper understanding of the thoughts and feelings of their soon to be spouse and help them build the tools needed for a healthy and long-lasting marriage.

Jo Harrison is a therapist here at Family Law in Partnership, offering a bespoke pre-marital counselling service. It can be as structured as the couple would like, or it can be less formal and led by the matters most pressing to each of them. Jo helps to support each of the couple’s own problem-solving skills and understanding of the other’s perspective.

Pre-nuptial agreements

Negotiating a pre-nuptial agreement can cause tension and can often take the romance out of what should be a blissfully happy time, given that it presupposes the end of the marriage before it has started. However, it is better to have these conversations at the outset whilst the couple are in a loving place, as opposed to when problems start to surface in the marriage when conflict and high emotions can often lead the parties to disagreement and a reluctance to compromise.

Pre-nuptial agreements are most commonly used in scenarios where one party is seeking to protect and ring fence an inheritance or pre-marital assets, such as a property purchased or inherited before they met their partner. However, pre-nuptial agreements are not only for the super-wealthy and can be used to regulate the financial division where couples have more modest assets. Increasingly, we have also seen a rise in the number of millennials seeking pre-nuptial agreements to protect wealth they have not yet made, but anticipate having in the future.

A pre-nuptial agreement is intended to limit the extent of the financially weaker party’s claim on divorce, so that they receive less of the assets and income than if there had not been a pre-nuptial agreement in place. However, a pre-nuptial agreement does not have to leave the financially weaker party completely out in the cold, and in fact, a pre-nuptial agreement which is unfair and does not provide sufficiently for the other parties’ needs (particularly where there are children), is unlikely to be upheld to the extent outlined in the agreement. Rather, the court are more likely to provide that spouse with sufficient capital and income to meet their financial needs, but no more. A pre-nuptial agreement cannot anticipate every possible circumstance in which a couple find themselves on separation, but it can provide a good framework for agreement on divorce in a lot of cases. Having a structure in place that broadly directs how the assets and income are to be divided should minimise the potential for costly legal arguments in the event of divorce which will in effect eat into the matrimonial assets to be divided.

Pre-nuptial agreements are holding increasing weight in the UK courts. Therefore it is vitally important that both parties take legal advice and that the spouse receiving less is happy to live with what is set out in the agreement.

These discussions are not always easy or comfortable. Again, counselling sessions can be of help to couples embarking on a pre-nuptial agreement. This can work well alongside the legal process in situations where discussions and negotiations stir up difficult feelings.

For further information on our counselling services, contact our in-house counsellor and family consultant, Jo Harrison on E: or T: 020 7420 5000.

If you need advice about pre-nuptial agreements, please contact Vanessa Asante on E: or T: 020 7420 5000

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