If you are lucky enough to receive a sparkler from your fiancé when getting engaged then, as unromantic as it seems, now is a good time to think about the future and what might happen to your finances, your assets, and your children if your relationship doesn’t stay the course.
Often people make assumptions about their rights and who gets what in a break-up, but many of these assumptions are either out of date or based on commonly held myths.
Victoria Walker is a lawyer within the Family Law Department at Fisher Meredith, one of the UK’s leading law firms specialising in family law. Victoria has a few tips to help you with your happily ever after:
If you are not planning to get married just yet but will be living together think about getting a cohabitation agreement. Being open about your finances and your intentions will also make it more likely that your relationship will work, but if it doesn’t it will also make the separation logistically and financially easier to deal with.
If you buy a property together before you get married make sure your solicitor prepares a declaration of trust for you setting out what shares you own in it. Have a document drawn up setting out your respective shares. Don’t just assume you get your deposit back or that you get a proportion of what you put in.
If the worst does happen and you break up you will at least get to keep the sparkler – unless your partner very unromantically put conditions on it when he gave it to you. But if it belonged to his mother or grandmother you should assume it was intended to be passed down the family –so hand it back as graciously as possible.
Once you are married however, the ring is yours to keep, even in the event of a divorce – along with all the wedding presents given to you both by your side of the family or friends.
Once the engagement party is over give some thought together about the issue of children. If you already have a child together your marriage will give you both equal rights and obligations.
These children may become what is known as ‘children of the family’ and you will have the same obligations and responsibilities towards them as you would if you were the natural parent, such as paying child support, if the marriage breaks down.
If you have yet to start a family talk about it now and how you view issues such as schooling and religion. Differences of opinion, if intractable, can be referred to a court (under a Children Act Specific Issue application) for a decision to be taken, but it is clearly better to work out a compromise in advance.
If you want to be sure that both parties know what they are getting into then get a pre-nuptial agreement drawn up. This is particularly important if there are big differences between you in terms of wealth or age, or if it is a second marriage for one of you and you already have children.
Remember that marriage can make your existing Will invalid. So consider getting a new Will drawn up.
Other legal aspects may also be affected too. For instance tax considerations, or if you run a company together, or have pension funds which you can to some extent control – so it is worth seeking legal advice well in advance and making sure you know what needs to be arranged — or rearranged.