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Quick links

- Pre-nuptial agreements
- Civil Partnership

- Marriage

Pre-nuptial agreements

A pre-nuptial agreement is a formal agreement signed before you get married or enter into a civil partnership.  The agreement details who owns which assets and how you think these should be divided should you divorce or separate. 

Whilst not legally binding, the courts are increasingly inclined to consider the terms of such an agreement, but each case will depend upon its own individual facts.

To improve the likelihood of your pre-nuptial agreement being upheld the following steps should be considered:

  • Both parties to obtain independent legal advice from solicitors specialising in pre-nuptial agreements.
  • Both parties to exchange financial information detailing the exact extent of their assets.
  • Make sure that the terms of any agreement reflect the facts and are not significantly unfair to one party.  In other words it should not, in the event of a separation leave one of you in a much better financial situation than the circumstances would require.

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Civil Partnership

A civil partnership is a legal relationship which can be registered by two people of the same sex. Registering a civil partnership will give your relationship legal recognition much the same as that where a heterosexual couple may have a civil, rather than religious, wedding ceremony. This will give you added legal rights, as well as responsibilities.

To register a civil partnership, you and your partner must sign a civil partnership document in front of two witnesses and a registrar.  Each party needs to be the same sex as each other and over the age of 16 (parental consent being required if either party is under 18).

A civil partnership provides most, but not all, the rights of a civil marriage. Civil partners, amongst other things, will enjoy the same:

  • Property rights
  • Tenancy rights
  • Inheritance tax exemptions
  • Intestacy rights of inheritance

To bring a civil partnership to an end requires a process similar to divorce proceedings.

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Heterosexual couples can be married in a civil or religious ceremony and same sex couples will be able to married in England and Wales from 29th March 2014.

To get married you and your partner:

  • Must be at least 16 (with parental consent) or 18
  • Free to marry i.e not closely related or married to someone else.
  • Of sound mind

To be legal the marriage must be conducted by someone authorised to do so or in the presence of a person authorised to register mariages in the district.  Your marriage must be entered in the marriage register and the register must be signed by both of you, two witnesses and the person who conducted the ceremony, and where necessary the person authorised to register the marriage. 

Being married gives you certain legal rights, notably,

  • The presumption that all property is equally shared although this can be varied on divorce.
  • The presumption that all children born during the marriage are children of the marriage.
  • On the death of a spouse not leaving a will, there are certain legal rights of inheritance.

Premarital contracts

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Other areas that may be of interest.

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