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How assets are divided in 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 party’s 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 other’s 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.

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


If you would like to know more about the issues covered in this guide, Vardags offers a free consultation to qualifying individuals.

Our confidential enquiry line is staffed 24 hours, every day of the year. Call 020 7404 9390 today.

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 proceedings. Broadly, to be considered... Read more

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 most cases, it will be necessary... Read more

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”, namely built up during the course of the... Read more

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 family. If one party contributes... Read more

Premarital assets in divorce

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 example because they were inherited by, or gifted to, one spouse or, in this instance, because they were not built up during the course of the marriage,... Read more

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 how a couple’s assets should be... Read more

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 divided between spouses.... Read more

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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