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Postponing weddings and prenups

Date:8 SEP 2020
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Since 4 July small weddings have had the ‘go ahead’ to start again. Whilst this is great news for some, for many couples the notion of a socially distanced wedding has simply led to further disappointment. With some couples choosing to postpone, Christina Pippas answers questions emerging around pre-nups during lockdown.

Last week the government announced that from the 4 July small weddings have the ‘go ahead’ to start again; whilst this is great news for some, for many couples the notion of a socially distanced wedding has simply led to further disappointment. Under the new guidance, there should be no more than 30 guests and social distancing of one metre between households should be maintained at all times. Some further restrictions include: no food and drink to be consumed as part of the event, hands should be washed before and after the exchanging of rings, singing and instruments should be avoided and there is a ‘strong recommendation’ that there should be no reception afterwards.

Many couples made the decision to put off their weddings at the start of lockdown.  However, those who were holding out to see if restrictions would be dropped by the summer may now find themselves in a position of wanting to postpone. If you are one of these couples, aside from logistical questions, such as whether your insurance will cover any loss and how accommodating the venue and suppliers are likely to be, you may also be wondering how this will affect your pre-nuptial agreement when you do eventually marry.

Clients have been asking a number of questions about pre-nups during lockdown. Below are the three of main questions that couples are raising:

Q1: We have had to reschedule our wedding for next year, will our pre-nup still be valid at the new planned date?

A1:  Covid-19 aside, most pre-nups already factor in the possibility of a delay and are drafted on the basis that the marriage will take place within 6 to 12 months of the pre-nup being signed; therefore, if you marry within this timeframe your pre-nup will still be valid. It is important to check that this provision has been included in your pre-nup. If it has not or you are outside of this time-frame you will need to execute a fresh pre-nup or a confirmatory/amending deed or consider a post-nuptial agreement to avoid this potential issue.

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Q2: Since Covid-19, our financial situation has changed and the financial information we exchanged prior to lockdown does not reflect our current situation anymore. Can we amend our pre-nup to reflect this?

A2: If there has been a material change in your financial situation you may wish to review your current agreement and your options for renegotiating its terms.  If, for example, there has been a significant and potentially long-term decline in your assets and/or income, one option may be to execute a deed amending the terms of the current agreement. Even if there has not been a significant change to your financial situation, in light of the delay, it may be advisable to execute a deed anyway confirming that you still wish to be bound by the terms of the original agreement.

Q3: Lockdown has provided me with time to reflect and I am now considering a pre-nup.  However, I’m worried because a) it’s not very romantic and b) I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort as I’ve heard they are not even upheld in the UK – is that true?

A3. Although pre-nups (and post-nups) are often not regarded as the most romantic notion, they play an important role in marriages allowing couples to agree what they want to happen financially if for any reason the marriage fails, thereby minimising expensive and emotionally draining conflict on a divorce. A common misconception is that they will not be upheld in court. However, if both parties have an understanding of its consequences, it is not unfair to one party and it is entered into freely, a pre-nup will be given weight by the courts as evidence of the parties’ intentions to one another in the event of a relationship breakdown and, in most cases, will be considered binding. It is advisable to finalise a pre-nup in good time before the wedding. Accordingly, if your wedding has been delayed and you are considering a pre-nup, now is good time to start making plans.

The team at Collyer Bristow has extensive experience in preparing pre-nups and post-nups for both UK-based and international families and in advising our clients in this regard. Should any of these issues affect you we would be very happy to discuss them with you.