What are your legal rights when you get engaged or move in together?

Thu 11th Feb 2016

Blog updated February 2021.

Valentine’s Day can be an exciting time for many couples and some may choose to get engaged, says Elise Alma, Head of the Family team at Coodes Solicitors.

Fun fact: if things go wrong before the wedding, you won’t get the engagement ring back unless you make the gift conditional on the marriage taking place.

You may be planning to surprise your partner with a proposal of marriage and an engagement ring on Valentine’s Day. Swept away by the romance, you might also make the decision to move in together ahead of the wedding. While this is an exciting time, it is important to understand your legal status as your relationship changes.

Even if you are not planning marriage you might still be planning to live together.

Whatever way your relationship is progressing you need to consider your legal rights as a couple.

Pre-nuptial agreements

If you are getting engaged, you will soon start focusing on the big day: the venue, the invitation list and the all-important dress.

Often people will be thinking about insurance policies in case the wedding has to be cancelled, or in the current climate, rescheduled.

Alongside this you should think about legal “insurance policies”, not just about things going wrong on the big day but what can happen if the relationship runs into difficulties later.

There is a growing need and acceptance of prenuptial agreements (prenups) as a sensible, if not very romantic, part of wedding planning.

At Coodes we are seeing more couples enquiring about pre-nuptial agreements before they get married or enter a Civil Partnership. Unlike in the US, prenups are not currently formally legally binding in this country but are increasingly being recognised by the divorce courts. Although they can be overriden, if properly prepared they can be upheld by courts if a relationship breaks down and so should be considered as a sensible step for couples. This is particularly important if you and your partner have differing financial resources, where one of you might have inheritance prospects or children from a previous relationship who you wish to protect.

Choosing to cohabitate

Growing numbers of people are choosing to cohabit, rather than marry, or at least live together for a while before tying the knot. The fact remains that you have no legal status as a cohabiting couple, so is sensible to seek advice before you move in together. At Coodes we can draw up a Living Together Agreement or Declaration of Trust, which give you some legal protection.

If you make an important decision as a couple this Valentine’s Day, you can avoid potential problems and expensive legal wrangling later by having a living together agreement or pre-nuptial agreement drawn up.

For more information or advice on any Family matters, please contact Elise Alma in the Family Team on 01566 770000 or elise.alma@coodes.co.uk.

Thu 11th Feb 2016

Elise Alma

Partner

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