Pre-Nuptial Agreements

engagement

Let’s face it – there is nothing romantic about prenuptial agreements. In fact, I doubt that there is anything that would kill romance faster than these two words being uttered by your significant other when talking about marriage, weddings and honeymoons!

Whilst any engaged couple would anticipate a life long happy commitment, we are all practical enough in this day and age to know that marriages do increasingly end in divorce.

A pre-nuptial agreement is considered by many to be a mature way of saying to one another how family assets should be fairly divided if the marriage were to end. Such an agreement can be entered into in the hope that the same agreement will gather dust over the years and need never be referred to in the future.

Is a pre-nuptial agreement legally binding?

In short, the answer is no, pre-nuptial agreements are not strictly legally binding –indeed, in the past they were considered contrary to public policy as it was thought to undermine the sanctity of marriage.

In 2010,  a Supreme Court Judgment in the case of Radmacher and Granatino looked in detail at the issue of pre-nuptial agreements (as well as post-nuptial agreements). This case has led to a significant move towards the enforceability of these agreements.

The Supreme Court decided that while pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements are not binding in themselves, there will now be a “presumption” in favour of such agreements. In effect, this means that a Court will now uphold a pre-nuptial agreement in all cases except those where either spouse can show that it would be unfair to do so.

Should I sign a pre-nuptial agreement before I get married?

It is advisable for people, particularly those who bring to the marriage inheritances or family businesses or are entering a second marriage, to enter into pre-nuptial agreements prior to and in anticipation of marriage. The agreement will record how the couple intend to divide their assets if the marriage breaks down at a later date.

As long as the terms of the pre-nuptial agreement are entered into fairly and address both parties needs then it is likely that it will hold good.

if you would like any further information on pre-nuptial agreements, please conatct us here

A Simple Guide to Divorce Procedure in NI

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Ending a marriage can be one of the most difficult and stressful times in a person’s life.

Making the decision to end your marriage brings with it many worries and fears about how life will change upon divorce. The last thing that any person going through a divorce wants to worry about is having to navigate a long, complicated legal process to reach the end result.
It will be a relief to many that the legal procedure for divorce here in Northern Ireland is fairly straightforward. We have put together below some information for you (minus the legal jargon!) to explain how this process works.

What is the procedure for divorce?

The first step in getting divorce is to issue what is known as a Divorce Petition. This is simply a document which sets out details needed by the Judge to consider your divorce. Importantly, the Petition will detail the grounds on which you are applying for a divorce. If you are the person who has filed for divorce, you will be referred to as the ‘Petitioner’ in these proceedings and your spouse will be referred to as ‘the Respondent’.

The Divorce Petition, once finalised, is then stamped by the Court and served on your spouse who is asked to complete an Acknowledgement of Service Form and lodge this with the Court. This form will confirm that your spouse has received the divorce papers and will detail whether they intend to defend your Petition for divorce.

If your spouse is not challenging the divorce, the case will then be listed for a Decree Nisi hearing.

What is a Decree Nisi hearing?

This is the initial hearing where the Judge will have to determine whether your marriage has irretrievably broken down.   You must attend at Court and give evidence at this hearing.   If the Judge is satisfied that the grounds for divorce have been met, a Decree Nisi is granted – this is an Order stating that are entitled to obtain a Divorce.

Am I divorced after I get my Decree Nisi??

No. The Decree Nisi is simply the first stage of the divorce. In order to be fully legally divorced, you must obtain a Decree Absolute.  You may apply for a Decree Absolute six weeks and one day after the Decree Nisi hearing. Your Solicitor makes the application for a Decree Absolute after this time has passed and you are not required to attend at Court.

What about the family finances and property?

Often, if the division of the family finances and property has not been agreed between you and your spouse, Court Proceedings would then be issued to decide how to divide the finances. These proceedings are called Ancillary Relief proceedings.  In cases where the family finances and property have not been finalised, the Petitioner is generally advised not to apply for the Decree Absolute until after the finances are resolved.  This is because both parties could lose certain rights such as widow pension benefits.

How much will a Divorce cost?

At the time of writing*, the Court costs for a Decree Nisi are £575.  There will be solicitors’ professional costs on top of this.  Most solicitors will give a quote for a divorce in advance of lodging anything with the Court.   Legal Aid may be available depending on your financial circumstances.

If Ancillary Relief proceedings are issued to resolve the financial matters after Decree Nisi, legal costs are likely to be calculated on a time-spent basis.  It is important that you speak with your solicitor about costs before issuing proceedings.

What about the future?

If you had made a Will before getting divorced, it is important to review this after your divorce. Once a divorce has been granted, any part of a Will leaving property to your former spouse will be invalid.

Although a divorce ends your marriage, often you and your former spouse will have to continue to share a relationship with one another for the sake of your children. It is therefore in everyone’s interests to try to ensure that the divorce, if at all possible, is dealt as amicably as possible so that despite your differences at the end of their marriage, you can both move on to the next stage of your lives.
If you would like more information on the legal process of divorce or if you have a query regarding your own divorce, please do not hesitate to contact claire or karen by email or leave your comments confidentially below.

*October 2015