THE BLOG

Princesses And Pre-nups

14/08/2017 09:52

The beautiful princess from one castle meets the handsome prince from a neighbouring kingdom, they marry, and wander off happily into the sunset - it's the image sold to us through thousands of rom-coms, cartoons and bridal magazines. Sure, they might have to fight a dragon or two, but not much time is spent considering the different cultures of their respective kingdoms, or how that impacts on their thoughts of marriage - or divorce.

With 1.2 million Brits living in Europe and many more in further-flung shores, indeed 100,000 in UAE alone, romantic unions across borders is not an unusual prospect.

Where you are from originally and its culture has a huge bearing on how you consider these important issues. International couples might be wise to think through these things well before embarking on their fairy-tale wedding.

A pre-nuptial agreement is, more often than not, a complex and difficult document but it becomes much more so when a couple hails from different countries.

Which set of laws will deal with their marital property for instance? His rules, her rules, or those of a third country in which they might be living? This consideration is crucial should the fairy-tale end in tears and future separation.

Within Europe, you can select which country's laws will deal with spousal maintenance on separation. It is not possible to select which country's laws will deal with division of assets on divorce. Instead, within Europe, this is dependent on a combination of factors including where you live, your nationality and your home country or "domicile".

Many people assume that the laws of their home country will always hold sway regardless of where they may move to on a temporary basis but that's not always the case. In deciding where they are going to live, international couples may not realise that they might also be deciding which set of laws will apply to their relationship.

Someone's home culture also plays a huge role in how they view the whole prospect of a pre-nuptial agreement. In some countries such agreements are commonplace. In France for instance it is routine for couples to choose which matrimonial property regime will apply to their relationship when they get hitched.

Although pre-nuptial agreements are now more commonplace in the UK than ten years ago, they are still not the norm.

Your background and cultural identity also has a bearing on whether you see a pre-nuptial agreement as 'generous' or 'mean'. People (and their legal advisers) from two different countries may have very different views on the fairness of the same document.

Some legal systems and cultures always allow an individual to keep his or her inherited wealth separate. By contrast, other systems treat the needs of each spouse at the end of the relationship as paramount.

Financial fairness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder!

Happily ever after doesn't happen for everyone. International couples who have not taken the time to think through these issues at the start of their relationship often want their legal advisers to simply wave a magic wand and make their problems disappear. Unfortunately, that's not easy to do in the real world outside fairy tales.

Lucia Clark, Family Law specialist and Partner at independent law firm Morton Fraser

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