The number of enquiries Woolley & Co receive about pre-nuptial agreements has risen sharply in the last 12 months. Maybe the message is getting through that understanding the full legal implications of your marriage and putting in place measures in case things don’t work out is a sensible part of wedding planning.
With a new Government in place, albeit one preoccupied with Brexit and unforeseen tragic events, is now the time to put more emphasis on equality in family law? We have marriage and civil partnerships for same sex couples, but what about the rights of cohabiting couples, and the rights of heterosexual couples to have a civil partnership instead of getting married?
As a family lawyer, I am rarely involved at the start of a relationship when all is going well and people are considering moving in together. Instead, my involvement arises at the point the relationship is breaking down or has broken down. For clients who are not married, one of the first things I often have to do is obtain from the land registry a copy of the transfer deed they signed when they purchased the property. Unfortunately, this is when many people have an unpleasant surprise when I explain that this document is going to be of paramount importance in determining how much of the property they are entitled to receive now they are separating.
There is no one answer to the question: what am I entitled to in a divorce settlement? Every case is different because the circumstances of every couple are different.
The Money Advice Service (MAS) offers a divorce settlement calculator but it does make a lot of assumptions and we would urge extreme caution if using a tool like this. In short, don’t get your hopes up or, conversely, get disheartened, if you do get a figure tumble out of the bottom after entering your details.
Isn’t it about time the divorce laws of England and Wales came into line with Australia, Sweden and Japan, to allow for no fault divorce?
The recent widely publicised family law case of Owens v Owens illustrates why this change is so needed. Mrs Owens sought a divorce on the ground of her husband’s unreasonable behaviour. Theirs was an extremely long marriage of some 39 years. Mrs Owens was ‘desperately unhappy’ and made a number of allegations against her husband.