At Townsend’s we are frequently asked the question about what goes into the “matrimonial pot” and what falls outside of it.
These days the law distinguishes between “matrimonial” and “non-matrimonial assets”. So, what’s the difference?
Matrimonial assets represents money, assets, property and pensions that you have bought or acquired together during the currency of the marriage and sharing is the usual approach. However, sharing might not be completely equal. For example a spouse who has stayed at home with the children will not have the same borrowing capacity as a spouse who has continued to work and earn during the marriage. If the family home is to be sold, the homemaking spouse will need more cash from the sale of the house to rehouse especially if he or she is the primary carer of the children.
Non-matrimonial assets are considered to be money, assets, property and pensions that you either owned on your own before you were married, which you brought into the marriage or those that you have acquired after you have separated.
What about assets, property and pensions that you acquired in your sole name during the marriage? Unless there are special circumstances to justify it, these are usually treated as jointly owned and should be shared even if ownership is in the sole name of a spouse.
Is that fair? Yes, says the court because of the financial choices that a couple make during the course of their marriage which enables one to build up more capital than the other. An example of this is a spouse who gives up a career or reduces his or her hours and income to stay at home and care for the family whilst the other spouse remains in employment building up a pension or share options.
When will non-matrimonial assets be taken into account? When financial needs require it. This usually arises in cases involving children or spouses approaching or reaching pensionable age. Non-matrimonial assets might be needed to house children and the primary carer or a more elderly spouse who is considered to be more financially vulnerable.
What am I entitled to? Every case is different and it can be dangerous to assume that the outcome of your case will mirror the case of friends or family members who have already been through a divorce. If you are thinking about separating and you are not sure about your entitlement, come and see one of our experienced solicitors at Townsend’s. We offer a no obligation one hour fixed fee first meeting at half our usual hourly rate.