Every relationship is different and therefore every separation too, and what one couple may have to divide may not be the same as another couple. This means that laws governing division of assets need to provide flexibility to ensure they can be adapted for all divorcing couples and their circumstances. Here we take a look at the assets that are typically divided during divorce.
Commons assets that are split on divorce
The family home
For many divorcing couples, the largest matrimonial asset is their family home. In many cases, it can be difficult to ensure that both parties comfortably rehouse themselves from the equity in the property. And it may even be in the best interests of any children for them to remain living in the home. But these are not the only options, and individual circumstances will be considered before deciding whether the property should be sold or retained.
Independently owned property
If you owned a property before marrying, this may be deemed a non-matrimonial asset and therefore not fall into the matrimonial melting pot for consideration. However, if the property was let out and the income used by the family, then it may be thought of as being a merged asset. If matrimonial assets are insufficient to meet both parties’ basic needs, then the court will look towards non-matrimonial assets to make up any shortfall.
Farm or private land
Divorce’s that involve farms and farmland are complex because it is not unusual for them to have been in families for generations, and want to keep it that way. Additionally, assets may be tied up in livestock or machinery, and other members of the family may work on the farm. Regarding private land, this also poses extra problems, especially when working out what should happen to it, which can depend on whether the land has planning permission or is let out to another party.
This can generally be treated in the same way as additional property in the UK. So if the property was purchased during the marriage as a holiday home, for example, then it may be a matrimonial asset, meaning that it could either be sold or one party retains it and buys the other out. If it was bought prior to the marriage, how it is treated largely depends on how it was used during that time, for example, whether it was let out or used as a holiday home.
Pension value will be taken into account when coming to a financial settlement, although, depending on the assets available, it may not necessarily need to be shared. You can read our longer article about pensions and divorce.
Possessions of this nature generally have a sentimental value beyond their financial worth. With any collection, complex legal structures may be in place for tax or other reasons, and if so, this requires careful handling by a specialist solicitor.
The general rule here is that future inheritances are not taken into account. This is because they are not guaranteed, with families having a tendency to fall out. In addition, expectations can be wiped out by eye-watering care costs. Inheritance already received can be contentious too. It may be argued that it should not be considered a matrimonial asset if it has not been swallowed into the matrimonial asset pot. But it can always be taken into account where the needs of the parties cannot be met by the other available assets.
Whether these are in joint names or held individually, any monetary assets are typically added to the matrimonial pot.
If your car is considered matrimonial property, then it will be eligible for distribution during divorce. If you owned the car before the marriage, and still own it after separation, it will be deemed your personal property and therefore not distributable. That is, unless other assets don’t cover basic needs.
Business assets/business shares
A specialist accountant will probably need to be instructed in order to value the business and carry out a detailed assessment. A business valuation will provide an accurate picture for both parties and the court to determine how it should be shared or divided.
Share-based incentive schemes
As a general rule, it is possible for one spouse to share in the benefits of such schemes following divorce. However, consideration must be given to the value or opportunity that arose during the marriage measured against any additional input required by the earning spouse to realise an enhanced value in the future.
What happens to hidden assets in divorce?
If you believe your ex has hidden assets, for example, by squirrelling money into a savings account that hasn’t been mentioned in financial disclosure or by giving it to a friend, there are ways your solicitor can uncover those assets. The court can order:
- Organisations such as banks, HMRC, or DVLA to provide evidence that the other party has certain assets/accounts. This is called a non-party disclosure order.
- A search for evidence in the other party’s possession, such as share certificates. This is called an Anton Pillar or search order.
- The other party’s accounts are frozen to prevent them disposing of money. This is called a freezing order.
- That the other party is treated as though they still own a certain asset they’ve tried to hide by giving it to a friend/family member. This is called an avoidance of disposition order.
- The matrimonial assets are divided as if the money had not been spent. This is called an add back order and is generally used when someone has recklessly spent money to prevent their spouse from having it.
What assets cannot be split during divorce?
Non-matrimonial assets are generally excluded from a divorce settlement, discussed in more detail here. A good way to avoid losing assets in a divorce is to create a pre or post-nuptial agreement. These are legal contracts that set out how assets will be divided should you divorce.
Find The Best Divorce & Family Lawyers Near You
We independently review and list the top divorce lawyers and family solicitors in the towns and cities near you. 100% free.
The information on this website is to be considered a guide and is therefore not legal advice. You use this information with the understanding that Wiselaw does not accept liability for any direct or indirect losses as a result of anyone relying on or acting upon the information on this website. Whilst we endeavour to provide accurate information, Wiselaw does not accept liability for any errors or omissions on this website.