There has been press coverage of a Supreme Court case dealing with a Pre-Nuptial agreement. The amount of money involved and the effect on that wealth if the agreement was upheld meant that the case had interest to the public at large and not just to lawyers.
The case, Radmacher –v- Granatino, helped to establish pre-nuptial agreements and post-nuptial property agreements could be validly considered by the Courts when dealing with the finances of a divorcing couple. It is important to remember that the Court, however, will always have the last word and will view all matters, including such agreement, within the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. Under the Act the Courts will always be seeking a fair outcome.
But what about unmarried couples? There is, apparently, a growing number of unmarried couples in this Country and they do not have access to the Matrimonial Causes Act. If they have not made any specific arrangements then matters between them would be decided on the basis of property law and trust law and this might well produce a very different result from that which would be arrived at in the case of a married couple.
This is where the Radmacher case provides a useful hint. An unmarried couple can enter a perfectly valid Cohabitation Agreement or Trust Deed to deal with matters such as the home and other property. This should always be considered where the unmarried couple are in the process of buying a house. It might seem like an additional unwelcome expense, but the couple should seek advice from a solicitor who can provide an appropriate Cohabitation Agreement or Trust Deed. The cost of preparing these documents will be far less expensive than the significant costs involved if there is a dispute and a Court application is required.
A well worded document should mean that the parties do not have to go to Court if the relationship breaks down. If they do end up in Court it should still produce the result which they intended rather than a potentially very different result imposed on the couple by property or trust law.