60 second interview with Caroline Holley, Farrer & Co
Caroline Holley, family law partner at Farrer & Co discusses how gifts are treated on divorce, and how pre-nups can be effective in protecting them.
Tell me about your role.
I am a partner in the family team at Farrer & Co and practise all areas of family law from drafting and negotiating pre-nuptial agreements to advising in complex financial disputes arising out of all aspects of relationship breakdown. I also advise in private law children matters, including in relation to contact disputes, relocation applications and abduction.
Tell us about an interesting client instruction.
One of the issues we see time and again is the question of how gifts are treated in the event of a divorce. This can be particularly difficult when the dispute involves items with great sentimental value, perhaps items gifted or inherited from a family member who has died. When a gift is made during the marriage, it is important to keep evidence of who the gift was intended for – whether for one or both parties – and to take care that subsequent arrangements, such as in whose name the insurance policy is in, and what testamentary arrangements are in place, are consistent with that.
How can prenups help protect gifted items?
Pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements are more effective in England than ever before. Although they are not strictly binding, if they meet certain requirements, the courts can and will hold spouses to their terms. The terms of pre or post-nuptial agreements can ring-fence gifts made to either party prior to and during the marriage, provide that there is no presumption of a gift unless it is expressly recorded as such, and specify how they should be treated on any later divorce.
What challenges has the current pandemic created for your clients?
The biggest challenge has been uncertainty. Uncertainty as to what life will look like post-pandemic, job and therefore income uncertainty and uncertainty surrounding asset values. It has made it more difficult for parties to resolve matters when valuations of assets have become much more fluid.
What do you consider to be the most important attributes for a family lawyer?
Empathy, judgement and an ability to see the big picture.
If you weren’t in the private client industry, what else might you be doing?
One of the aspects I most enjoy about my role is the psychological element – working out what makes people tick and what will be the key to unlock the issues involved. If I hadn’t become a family lawyer then I would have been interested in training as a psychologist.