This article was originally published in Edward Fennell’s Legal Diary Blog, and can be found here.
Wedding season is almost upon us, but not as we know it.
I am sure that those due to get married in 2020 could never have imagined the situation that they would now be facing. Either their ‘big’ day will not be happening, or they will be considering whether to cancel.
Whilst the cancellation of weddings may have a damaging effect on the wedding services industry, there may also be financial implications for couples – beyond the cost of cancellation.
When a couple marry, they assume financial obligations to each other. If they divorce, the courts can make orders redistributing their assets, and for the payment of maintenance.
A vital consideration may be a pre-nuptial agreement, a contract between a couple proscribing how they would like the court to distribute their assets, if they separate.
Although not strictly binding in England and Wales, parties will be held to its terms if a court deems it to be fair.
In determining whether the parties should be held to its terms, there must be full disclosure of assets. The court will also look at whether it was willingly entered into, if its implications were fully understood, if each party would be able to meet their needs if they were to be held to it, and whether they had independent legal advice.
But what if you were set to marry during lockdown and your pre-nup has already been signed?
Pre-nups usually include a sunset clause stipulating that it will lapse if the marriage has not taken place by a certain date. This is to protect against a change in position, should there be a delay. Therefore, any pre-nup will need to be revisited to avoid the risk of the court attaching reduced weight to it. A vital consideration given the adverse effect that COVID–19 has had on the value of assets.