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Couples need more support before marriage

Couples getting married need more support to understand the legal ramifications before they tie the knot, according to a leading family law firm.

The stigma surrounding "pre-nups" still puts many couples off drawing up any agreement before they settle down, yet getting married gives each partner a legal right to a share of the other's possessions and responsibility for certain aspects of their finances.

Now Woolley & Co, a ground-breaking law firm which has done away with high street offices to offer a more personal service built around the clients, wants to see more done to ensure couples are fully aware of all their legal rights and responsibilities before tying the knot.

And it wants pre-nuptial style agreements to be fully legally binding and more common among couples committing to each other.

"There is understandably a stigma surrounding pre-martial agreements. It can seem incredibly unromantic and, of course, most people think they will never need it," said managing partner Andrew Woolley, who established the firm 11 years ago in Warwickshire and now has nine other offices around the country.

"The reality is though that some figures suggest that nearly 50 per cent of marriages in the UK will end in break-up and an increasing number of couples are living together without any formalisation of their arrangement. Statistics released this month show the number of unmarried couples living together has risen by 65 per cent in the last decade. If the worst then happens, a break-up can be lengthy and costly for all concerned.

"Getting married, or simply setting up home together, does have certain legal implications so it makes sense to look at some sort of formal agreement before doing so.

"This means that, should the unthinkable happen further down the line, both know where they stand, save a lot of money and it helps simplify what is always a heartbreaking experience.

"These agreements should be the norm rather than something that people shy away from. We would like to do more done to let people know about the legal bits of setting up home together and simplify the procedure for getting an agreement drawn up.

"It is not about killing romance. People are going into relationships with their eyes open and we need to do what we can to help that."

Pre-marital agreements, or similar co-habiting agreements, set out how a couple's assets would be divided in the event of a break-up. It means things are easier to sort out, important decisions have already been made and no one ends up unfairly losing out.

When a couple marry, aspects of their finances are combined. This means, for instance, if one of them inherits, or has just inherited, a lump sum of money, the partner can be entitled to a portion of it. Similarly, husbands and wives have a claim to property owned by their partner and some aspects of income earned.

Woolley & Co is an award-winning family law specialist. Legal experts conduct their business from satellite offices, making use of the latest technology to keep in contact with each other, correspond with clients and speed-up cases.

Woolley & Co has built a strong reputation for innovation, flexibility and dealing in plain English through its website www.family-lawfirm.co.uk It offers fixed fee services which can be bought directly from the firm's website, cutting down on the need for meetings and ensuring charging is transparent.

Woolley & Co has nine lawyers, with bases in Coventry, Nuneaton, Stratford, Northamptonshire, Derby, Wiltshire, Burton, Gloucestershire, Norfolk and Worcester.

News added October 2007

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