What does September bring for family law?
Is the last weekend of the summer holidays the worst weekend of the year? Parents and children alike are both invariably stressed and fed up. There is a desire to squeeze the last ounce of enjoyment out of the final few days of freedom coupled with a need to deal with the mundane tasks or buying new uniform and shoes for kids who have unreasonably shot up over the holidays and get them to deal with the homework / summer projects which have been left to the very last minute.
The newspapers invariably describe the first Monday in January as ‘Divorce Monday’ but the stresses and strains which contribute to that problem can apply with equal force to the beginning of September. Intense family time can be a mixed blessing for some. Often parents are worn out and exhausted by the time September comes around and this can place huge pressure on personal relationships. With experienced family lawyers in our offices in London, Cambridge, Reading and Southampton we are able to provide clear, sympathetic and supportive advice on the options for people who find themselves in this unfortunate situation and help them plot a course through the morass. This does not always spell the end of the relationship.
September is also a popular month for weddings. On 27 August the Law Society Gazette reported on a YouGov survey carried out for Stephensons Solicitors with the headline ‘Generation “Z” likely to demand prenup’. Apparently a significant percentage of ‘Generation Z’, ie those born from 1996 onwards, are likely to want a prenuptial agreement before getting married. The sample size was comparatively small at 2,064 but of the 136 respondents aged between 18 and 24, 42% of women and 36% of men said they would likely sign a prenup.
Prenuptial agreements are not perfect and are not for everybody but members of our family team are regularly asked to advise on them. At one time they tended to be mainly the preserve of the extremely wealthy or those hailing from civil law countries where marital contracts are commonplace. Such agreements are still not strictly enforceable as contracts in this country but the courts have made it clear that weight – sometimes significant weight – can be attached to them in appropriate cases where the couple have each entered into the agreement with their eyes open and the end result is fair and does not leave one party in a predicament of need. We often see these agreements with people with pre-existing wealth, those entering into a marriage for a second or third time, or those with business or trust interests but the beauty of a bespoke agreement is its flexibility. The survey referred to mentioned that different respondents wanted the agreement to cover such things as homes, savings and investments, cars and motorbikes, or pets. Even when an agreement is not eventually concluded the process of talking about one can be illuminating for the couple and compel them to discuss their respective priorities for their future life together. What our collective experience does however show is that it is better not to leave discussion about a prenup to the last minute. They are not ‘off the shelf products’ and it is much better, and less stressful, to start consideration of one three months or more before the wedding takes place. This time can be especially important if one of the people is less financially sophisticated than the other or if there is a need to take advice in more than one country.