Henry Brookman explains pre-partnership agreements for civil partners. Published in My Gay Money.
The number of civil partnerships entered into in the UK has increased over recent years. Unfortunately however, this increase has been matched by the number of civil partnership dissolutions. Recent reports suggest that dissolutions rose by 44% in 2010.
This trend underlines the importance of couples thinking through the practicalities of the financial arrangement in their relationship before they become civil partners. This arrangement, called a pre-partnership agreement, will require the couple to certainly hope for the best but plan for the worst. Not very romantic, but nonetheless, very sensible.
Is it better to just avoid entering into a civil partnership?
Any expert worth their salt will not discourage you from formalising your relationship into a civil partnership. Quite simply, the law in England and Wales provides significantly more financial protection for couples who are married or within a civil partnership than those who are co-habiting.
Naturally, if the relationship breaks down, there is often great sadness on both sides of the table. At such a time there can be confusion as to what your rights are and whether they are any different to those in a heterosexual relationship. For this reason, it is not only important to take advice at the earliest opportunity should the relationship be irreparable, it is important that you take advice before entering into the civil partnership.
Are pre-partnership agreements worth the paper they are written on?
Firstly, the principles are exactly the same with a pre-partnership agreement drawn up for civil partners as they are for a prenuptial agreement for a married couple. Secondly, what has become clear through recent cases in the UK courts is that prenups are being taken increasingly seriously. They are now more likely than ever to influence how the couple’s assets will be divided.
Therefore, whilst a pre-partnership agreement is far from a romantic gesture, it can be a very sensible method by which both parties can gain more security about their financial situations should the relationship dissolve. The agreement is also likely to help reduce the cost, the emotional turmoil and the uncertainly associated with a prolonged legal case that does not have a pre-partnership agreement to take into account.
Couples would also be well advised to make sure their agreement is updated over time to take into account any significant changes in the family. These may include the parties having children or inheriting assets.
What about the children?
Whether you have children or not, you and your partner have a legal responsibility to support one another financially at the end of a civil partnership. However, if children are involved in the relationship, it is particularly important that appropriate financial arrangements are in place.
Step children are typically not treated as ‘children of the family’, however, this is not unheard of and it should not be assumed that they will be treated differently. This then brings into consideration the outcome if one or both of the partners die. It would therefore be wise for a couple to consider their pre-partnership agreement alongside the provision of wills.
If you would like to know more about this issue please contact Brookman Solicitors for more information.