Top divorce lawyer offers cohabiting couples 'no-nups'

Head of Family law at Seddons, Deborah Jeff, is quoted by the Evening Standard today as saying the number of couples signing “no-nup” agreements before they move in together is rising sharply.

Deborah Jeff

Some of the contracts are intended to ensure that family wealth or assets brought into a relationship by one partner remain under their control.

Deborah explains: “Whilst those who take advice before living together are still in the minority, those who do can take various steps to protect themselves financially.  Most people don’t think to take advice or just aren’t aware that there are straight forward steps they can take at the beginning of a relationship to protect themselves should things not work out as expected.  This can spare them considerable cost financially and emotionally if the relationship ends”.

The cohabitation agreements often follow pressure from parents determined to prevent money given to their children from being wasted by free-spending partners.

They can also cover areas of potential conflict such as who pays household bills and whether the couple will have joint credit cards and bank accounts.

'Ms Jeff said other common elements of the contracts included stipulating who should take responsibility for loans, what should happen if one partner dies, and whether one partner should be able to buy the other out of their share of property if they split,' the Standard reports.

Figures from the 2011 Census showed 6.5 million people are now in cohabiting relationships.

In a survey of 2,000 Londoners, carried out recently by Seddons in collaboration with The Marriage Foundation:

•        More than 80% thought it was important to share financial commitments as a couple. Half shared a joint bank account, 43% were paying off a mortgage together and 40% paid household bills together. A third had savings accounts together, and a quarter shared a credit card.

•        But more than 82% of Londoners said they had never discussed what would happen to joint financial commitments if they split up. Just under a fifth said they had no shared finances with their partner.

•        The division of assets on separation should be the same for cohabiting partners as married spouses, according to 42% of people polled. Just under a third (30%) thought the present system (where a spouse is legally entitled to a share of the other's assets on divorce, while cohabiting couples are not) was right.

•        When asked whether courts being allowed to rule on how a divorcing couple's assets are split encouraged or discouraged them to marry, over a third (35%) said it wouldn't affect their decision, while 30% said it would discourage them. Only 14% of people believed the ability of the courts to divvy up assets on separation, even if there was a pre-nuptial agreement, would encourage them to marry.

Sir Paul Coleridge, a senior High Court judge who has worked in the family justice system for over 40 years, and founded The Marriage Foundation, said “With over half of unmarried Londoners hoping to be married at some point, and with half all Londoners already married, these findings show the importance of marriage for many people. Too many people are forced to delay marriage while entering into significant financial commitments and starting families and are ill-equipped to manage the risks this entails."

Wider National figures showing survey results from 3,500 people regarding marriage and cohabitation, will be released later this week. Please use the press contact below to request further details.

In the Evening Standard today:

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/rise-in-nonups-for-unmarried-couples-who-want-to-protect-their-wealth-8489524.html

Seddons (http://www.seddons.co.uk/) is a 20-year-old central London law firm (based at 5 Portman Square) with a total of over 70 staff, including 19 partners.

Chambers notes ‘This team offers clients the full range of family services, and is particularly noted for its expertise on divorce proceedings’ and the Legal 500 says 'Deborah Jeff provides an excellent level of service at Seddons'.