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 significant familial wealth to the marriage at the outset, this is likely to be taken into account when considering the fairest way to divide the assets. Equally, if, during the marriage, one party receives significant gifts from family members, or inherits their family’s assets, these too could be ring-fenced by the court for that party to retain upon divorce. However, if those familial assets are required to meet the other spouse’s “needs”, for example their need to be re-housed, then the court is entitled to “invade” them, and they may well fall to be divided in the financial settlement. The court will take into consideration the standard of living enjoyed by the parties during the marriage when considering a spouse’s needs in the future.
Familial assets which do not legally belong to one of the parties to the marriage will not form part of the settlement, unless it can be shown that the spouse has a beneficial interest in those assets, despite the fact that they do not hold the legal title.
The other category of assets are known as “matrimonial” assets. These are assets which have been built up during the course of the parties’ marriage, as a result of their joint endeavours, to which the court applies the sharing principle in the first instance. The starting point is therefore that these assets will be shared equally.
The importance of the source of familial assets can diminish over time. There may be, for example, intermingling of familial and marital assets, which results in the familial assets thereafter becoming “matrimonialised”. How the assets have been held and how they have been made use of by the parties during the course of the marriage is therefore extremely important, and relevant for the court to consider when exercising its discretion upon division. The way in which the courts view familial assets is fact specific, and depends upon all of the circumstances of the case.
Vardags can assist with the presentation of your case in the best possible way, including with respect to any familial assets that have been gifted or inherited by one spouse. Working with high and ultra-high net worth clients means that familial wealth is often a significant factor in the cases that Vardags deal with. Our lawyers have extensive experience of the nuances that are involved when familial assets are present, and will use this experience to ensure that the best possible outcome is achieved.
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.