The Horse May Have Bolted 20th, January , 2021

It certainly seems less than romantic to be planning for your separation even before you are married.

Particularly for those who are getting hitched for the first time the idea of sitting down with your fiancee ( who you are head over heels in love with) and discussing the finer points of how the matrimonial assets are going to be split, when you split, doesn’t feel quite right.

Having said that if you don’t get advice from Family Law Professionals such as Rooney Family Law at the right time (before you get married) you could find that you are trying to shut the stable door but the horse has long since bolted.

One of the reasons that pre – nuptial contracts are far more common for second marriages is that the parties involved have become all too aware from experience that the course of true love does not always run that smoothly.

It is hard to be objective when affairs of the heart are at play but one thing that is undeniably true is that many marriages end in Divorce.

The statistics vary from year to year and country to country but it is probably fair to say that at least 40% of marriages finish before their time.

When you add in the ever increasing number of people who choose to live together, but not formally marry, the percentage of relationships ending badly is more like 50%.

Everyone recognises and realises that if a relationship ends there can be real problems relating to the welfare of any children and what will happen to the money.

There may not be much planning that can be done as far as the children are concerned but surely it would be advisable to agree something about the money at the beginning rather than getting involved in a battle at the end.

Faced with the odds referred to above, in any other aspect of life, most people would be considering what would happen if things went pear shaped and make provisions before taking the plunge.

Many people, however, do not even think about consulting a divorce lawyer before they get married.

It is a bit like parking an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff rather than building a fence at the top.

The advice has to be; Don’t wait till you have fallen off the top of the cliff to get advice.

There is one particular area of Family Law that can cause real difficulties if there is no pre nuptial agreement and the correct advice is not obtained.

Let us say, for example, that one of the parties, the wife, started her own business many years before the couple met and got married. Let us say that the wife started as a sole trader distributing PPE.

For years the business grew gradually but slowly. The wife employed a few people and the value of the business increased.

The wife met the husband and they got married. After a few years of marriage along came a Pandemic. The Government of the day said it would be over in 6 months but it proved far more persistent, long lasting and difficult to shake off.

The requirement for PPE went through the roof and the wife’s business had great sources of supply. She was able to provide PPE in huge amounts where others could not.

Her business rocketed in size as did the profits. Her accountant, with a view to reducing her total tax bill, suggested she incorporate into a Limited Company immediately. She followed that advice. Why would she not? There seemed to be no down side.

A year later, for reasons unrelated to the Pandemic, the couple separated. While the wife had been working round the clock the husband, furloughed for the duration, had met someone at the park and an adulterous relationship had blossomed.

The wife was furious and consulted her divorce lawyer.

The advice she received at the first consultation was not encouraging. There was nothing controversial about most of the assets. What was to happen to the matrimonial home, the savings and the pensions was all quite straightforward.

The problem arose when the discussion focused on the business. Over the last few years the value of the business had soared. It was now worth over £3 million pounds.

She asked her lawyer the all important question; Was the business a matrimonial asset? Would it be taken into consideration? She had owned the business a long time before she had even met her husband.

The divorce lawyer explained to her that had her business remained in its original form, namely operating as a sole trader, her husband would have no claim whatsoever because the business was acquired before the marriage and fell out with the definition of matrimonial property.

When the wife had’ converted’ the business to a limited company during the course of the marriage she had acquired her shares in the company during the course of the marriage and therefore the new company was a matrimonial asset which would form part of the matrimonial assets that were to be divided.

When entering into marriage many people have little by way of assets and therefore taking advice on what would happen if the marriage broke down is unnecessary.

For a significant minority, however, who may have assets from before the marriage, it is definitely recommended to obtain advice from a Family lawyer before the marriage.

Reaching a fair agreement about what would happen to assets in the event of a separation could well result in avoiding a long, expensive court action.

When a situation arises during the course of the marriage where there may be a business interest or one or other of the parties has been left an inheritance again it makes sense to check with the Family lawyer what the situation would be if the couple separated.

Failure to take such action and simply consulting the Divorce Lawyer once the separation has occurred may very possibly end up in a situation where, although the stable door is firmly shut, the horse is several hundred yards down the road and there is nothing that can be done to lead it back to the stable.

back to blog