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

All assets related to the marriage need to be disclosed during a divorce and shared between the parties, including: 

  • Pensions


Marital and non-marital assets can be treated differently by the courts when deciding the financial split and depending on how this is decided can make a significant difference to the proceedings.

Matrimonial assets are those built up by the parties during the marriage (generally from the date of cohabitation – insofar as that cohabitation led seamlessly to marriage – and until the date of separation). These assets have been built up during the parties marriage and the court would apply the sharing principle in the first instance.  

Premarital assets are a category of what are known as non-matrimonial assets and are assets either: 

  • Brought into the marriage by a spouse 

  • Having been owned prior to the relationship 

  • Acquired unilaterally (including gifts and inheritance)  

These assets were not built up during the marriage but owned prior to its inception. If one party contributes significant premarital wealth to the marriage, this is likely to be taken into account when considering the fairest way to divide the assets. 

Non-matrimonial assets will be examined to determine whether they have also become part of the matrimonial pot and these are typically things such as: 

  • Inheritance acquired before the marriage 

  • Property owned before the marriage 

  • business founded before the marriage 

The exception to this is the family home, which is considered separately and, in principle, shared equally between the parties regardless of legal ownership. If you are not a legal owner of your family home, you can apply to register your matrimonial home rights. This protects your right as the spouse of the legal owner and allows you to occupy the property pending conclusion of any financial proceedings. 

Occupation of the family home following separation can also be regulated, in some cases, by an occupation order. 

Since premarital assets are not immediately subject to equal sharing, it is often the case that the party bringing them into the marriage can retain them. However, if those premarital assets are required to meet the other spouses 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 usually take into consideration the standard of living enjoyed by the parties during the marriage when considering a spouses future needs. 

The importance of the source of premarital assets can diminish over time. There may be, for example, intermingling of premarital and marital assets, and this results in the premarital assets becoming matrimonialised. How the assets have been held and made use of by the parties is therefore extremely important, and relevant for the court to consider when exercising its discretion upon division. 

The way in which the courts view premarital assets is fact specific and depends on the circumstances and facts of each case. It is therefore extremely important that your case is framed in the best possible way from the outset and this is why it is so important that you have the right team on your side. 

Working exclusively with high and ultra-high net worth clients means that premarital wealth is often a significant factor for Vardags clients and we have the expert knowledge and experience of these cases. We know that deploying a well thought out argument at the very outset of a case in those circumstances is key and can make substantial difference. We have extensive experience of achieving the best outcome for clients and together with our inhouse forensic accounting team, who understand all the issues that arise in these cases, we can get the best outcome for our clients. 

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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