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How are assets divided in a divorce?

When dividing assets within the context of a divorce, the starting point is the principle of equal sharing of the value of the matrimonial assets.

Broadly, matrimonial assets are those built up by the parties during the marriage period (usually from the date of cohabitation – insofar as that cohabitation led seamlessly to marriage – until the date of separation). Matrimonial assets are distinct from non-matrimonial and/or pre-marital assets, which are assets either brought into the marriage by a spouse, having been owned prior to the relationship, or acquired unilaterally (such as by way of gift, or inheritance).

However, the court will depart from the principle of equal sharing of matrimonial assets insofar as it is required to meet a partys needs following the breakdown of the marriage. The needs of a party covers both capital needs (such as the need for a property to live in) and income needs (funds required to meet day-to-day expenditure). Whilst needs is not defined, case law has interpreted it widely, and the court will usually take into account the standard of living enjoyed by the parties during the marriage when considering what is reasonable in terms of future capital and income requirements.

The parties respective contributions to the marriage can also be taken into account when considering the fairest way to divide matrimonial assets.

In most cases, it will be necessary to exchange financial disclosure prior to any settlement discussions, to ensure both parties have a comprehensive view of their financial position. The disclosure process can be completed voluntarily, or – if financial proceedings are issued by either party – will be ordered by the court ahead of the first hearing.

Once financial disclosure has taken place and been reviewed, it is common for the parties to have queries of the others disclosure, which can be raised by way of a questionnaire. In terms of finding any assets which your spouse may have failed to disclose, this is a key stage in the proceedings, and it is imperative that the correct questions are asked.

Vardags work exclusively with high and ultra-high net worth clients, and are adept at ensuring that the disclosure process is tailored to each individual client and executed to the highest level. We have a unique, in-house financial forensics team available to advise on all aspects of the disclosure process, particularly within cases involving a business or businesses and/or assets held offshore or within structures, who work with our highly effective legal team with a wealth of experience in cases involving a variety of jurisdictions.

If youre considering or going through a divorce and want to know more about the division of assets, click below for a free initial consultation with one of our expert divorce solicitors.


For more details on how specific assets such as properties, businesses, pensions and pre-marital assets are divided, please see our dedicated guides below:

How properties are divided in divorce

Parties to divorce proceedings may hold property either solely, jointly with the other (either as joint tenants or tenants in common), or jointly with a third party. If a property is held with a third party, it is sometimes necessary to join that party to the financial...

Divorce with a business involved

Some of the most valuable assets to be considered in settlements are often business or company assets and so these business interests need to be accurately valued. When the fate of your business and livelihood potentially on the line, it is vital to get this right. In...

How pensions are divided in divorce

A pension may be a significant asset when considering the appropriate financial settlement upon divorce. Pension assets are treated in a similar manner to other capital assets of the marriage, in that insofar as the pension in question is a “matrimonial asset”,...

Family assets in divorce

Familial assets, derived from one spouse’s family, fall into the category of what are known as “non-matrimonial” assets. These are assets which are derived from outside of the marriage, because they were inherited by, or gifted to, one spouse from their...

Are premarital assets protected in divorce?

Premarital assets are generally protected in divorce unless required to meet the other spouse's needs. Premarital assets are a category of what are known as “non-matrimonial” assets. These are assets which are derived from outside of the marriage, for...

What happens to crypto assets during a divorce?

WHAT HAPPENS TO CRYPTO ASSETS DURING A DIVORCE? Crypto assets (such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and NFTs (non-fungible tokens)) are subject to the duty of disclosure in divorce proceedings, meaning that they are treated just like other assets; they must be disclosed to the other party...

What happens to art collections and jewellery in a divorce?

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO MY ART COLLECTION? If the parties are unable to agree on who shall retain particular pieces of the art collection, then the court will consider a number of factors. This may include, but is not limited to, the following: whether the art was bought or...

Who gets the horse in a divorce?

WHO GETS custody? More and more often, for HNW couples, a point of contention is who will retain the horse. Horses can be of substantial value and incur significant upkeep and maintenance costs. If you owned the horse before the marriage, then it will be considered a...

What is the difference between marital and non-marital assets?

Marital assets are acquired during the marriage and typically split equally, while non-marital assets are owned before the marriage and may not be subject to division unless needed to meet a spouse's needs. Marital Asssets All assets related to the marriage need to...

Exploring the options to deal with your Mortgage

Divorce is a seismic life event, marked by emotional upheaval and practical challenges. Among these challenges, the fate of the family home and its mortgage often looms large. In this comprehensive guide, we explore the multitude of options available to divorcing couples as...

Will admitting to adultery impact the divorce settlement?

In short, the answer is it is extremely unlikely. Couples that cite adultery as a reason for their divorce often believe that, as one party feels cheated and betrayed, that party is entitled to a larger divorce settlement. This is not the case. When the courts determine...

Is inheritance included in a divorce settlement?

The inclusion of inheritance in a divorce settlement is conditional on many variables specific to each marriage. Assets in a divorce are either matrimonial or non-matrimonial. Matrimonial assets, which were acquired during the marriage, go into the pot of assets which can be...

Divorce and your marital home

A key issue during divorce proceedings will often be what happens to the matrimonial home. This is usually the most valuable asset that a couple own. As with all assets, the basic principle is that all assets should be divided between the two parties regardless of who bought...

Everything you need to know about Wills and Divorce

There is a common misconception that a divorce will revoke or nullify a Will. Similarly, if people have a Will in place, they can forget about it in the event of a divorce and not realise the implications. Divorce has serious consequences on a person’s Will that are...

Protecting your company (during and after divorce)

A divorcing couple need to come to an arrangement on the division of matrimonial assets in a way that is fair but that ensures both parties are provided for. This can be particularly complicated where there is a business involved. There are various issues to consider in these...

Transfer of Property

The transfer of property it is legally known as a transfer of equity. This is different to the sale of a property where the entire ownership in relation to the property is changed. With a transfer of equity, at least one of the current owners remains on the title and one or...

Marriage Length and Divorce Settlements

Does marriage length impact the divorce settlement? The duration of the marriage is a relevant factor for the court to consider when determining the appropriate financial settlement on divorce. It is also not just the actual date of marriage that is important, any time spent...

The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.


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