Why you should discuss your finances before getting married
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Sitting down to talk about your financial situation is vital for anyone who is soon to be married, says Kayleigh Biswas, associate solicitor at Rayden Solicitors in Hertfordshire.
The specialist family law firm, which has four offices, advises clients on family law, including divorce and relationship breakdown and finances.
Kayleigh explains why her team urges its clients to discuss money openly before a marriage:
Q: Why is it important to discuss your finances with your future husband or wife?
As family lawyers we are often fortunate to meet clients at the start of their relationships, but also sadly have clients that come to us when their relationships end. When it comes to the latter there are frequently two key problems, specifically lack of communication and managing finances. I think it’s inevitable to expect that your financial position will change during the course of a marriage: there might be employment changes; someone might stop work to have children; there might be an inheritance. Unless you have an arrangement in place, which everyone is happy with, before these things happen then finances can be the biggest cause of resentment in a relationship. I am getting married soon myself – I was supposed to get married in 2020 but then Covid happened – so I am aware of the need to talk about money before doing so. I think it is one of the most important conversations you can have with a future spouse.
Q: What options do you discuss with clients when it comes to protecting assets?
The option most people know about is a pre-nuptial agreement: a document a couple signs before getting married. This essentially sets out what a financial settlement might look like upon separation. It can cover different situations that might occur during a marriage, such as one of you stopping work to have children, and the terms can vary depending on the length of the relationship. A pre-nuptial agreement is a bespoke document which can be tailored to your particular circumstances. We see couples for whom it’s about protecting family money or inherited wealth and then others who are contemplating a second or third marriage and want to protect what they have for their children. Pre-nuptial agreements have previously been synonymous with celebrities and the very wealthy but actually there may be lots of circumstances where they may be appropriate. In order for a pre-nuptial agreement to be upheld, however, a judge would need to consider that everyone’s needs are adequately met because it is about fairness as well. Whilst a pre-nuptial is not technically legally binding in England and Wales, provided certain conditions are met, they can be highly persuasive.
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Q: How does a pre-nuptial agreement work?
It varies from couple to couple. Some people will come to an agreement on how any assets are going to be treated in the event of a divorce, while others will work this out through their solicitors. One of the formalities which we would always recommend is the exchange of material disclosure of your financial circumstances. Pre-nuptial agreements tend to favour the economically stronger party, so it’s important to have an understanding of how entering into a pre-nuptial agreement impacts the financial provision you could otherwise expect to receive on divorce. A pre-nuptial agreement can be reviewed and amended during the course of a relationship and you can also enter into a post-nuptial agreement. This is created after you are married, but essentially has the same purpose.
Q: Are there any other legal considerations for those getting married?
We are seeing increasing numbers of blended families these days – up to 50 per cent of children under 16 live only with one of their biological families – but much of the time step-parents don’t realise they don’t have automatic parental responsibility for a step-child. Being married to the child’s biological parent doesn’t give them those rights. This is really important because they may not be able to give consent for emergency medical treatment. If a couple is getting married, it might be worth considering if there needs to be any kind of formalisation of legal responsibility for a step-child; whether a parental responsibility order or step-parent adoption is required. We would also always suggest that those at the start or end of a relationship consider their wills.
Q: Do you have any final thoughts for those getting married?
It’s all about communication. If you are preparing to make a lifelong commitment to someone, you should have some honest conversations first. Irrespective of whether you enter into a pre-nuptial agreement or not it is so important to sit down and talk about what is going to happen. What if one person gives up work to have children, for example? Will the other party provide them with an allowance so they can lead as independent a life as possible from a financial point of view? These conversations need to take place as early as possible before a marriage. If you wait until you have already been married for some time, you may find you and your spouse are on very different pages.