Ask the Legal Expert - Love and legalities in a time of Covid
- AuthorJill Bulteel
"My partner and I have lived together for a decade and have talked about marrying, but the added complications of Covid-19 have slowed our plans. As an older couple, with our own properties, would marriage put us on a better legal footing?"
Interestingly, the office for National Statistics has said the average age at which heterosexual couples marry has now gone up to 38 for men and 35.7 for women. Overall, there is a further decline in the number of couples marrying, with the figure now the lowest level on record. And those figures are for 2017 - the decrease is likely to be bigger by now.
Weddings were among the first casualties of the virus, so many are wondering if the institution of marriage will survive this set-back, and many cohabitees will continue to live together instead of marrying. As in your case, the fact that couples are leaving it later to wed, means that members of a couple are more likely to have acquired their own property or assets, or even an inheritance by the time they get married.
One option for couples who are pressing ahead with a wedding is a Prenuptial Agreement. These have become more popular in recent years as couples receive better advice about protecting their assets and about the efficacy of Prenups in the event of a divorce.
However, other couples who do not want to tie the knot may also be concerned about their legal rights. Cohabitee agreements can help to codify living and financial arrangements between a couple and there may be an urgent need for legislation to cover those already choosing to cohabit, including those couples who have had their wedding plans side-lined by Covid.
At present, unmarried couples do not receive the same rights as married couples on separation, despite what might be years of commitment to one another. Of course, the fact that many weddings have been postponed this year does give couples more time to consider whether a Prenuptial Agreement is appropriate for them.
If you have pre-acquired assets which you would like to protect, or if you have children from a previous relationship and you wish to protect your assets for them, a Prenuptial Agreement may be right for you. This is a complex area of law and it is important to seek expert legal guidance at the earliest stage.
The question is based upon a hypothetical situation.