Home > The Legal Process > Marital and Non-marital Assets

Marital and Non-marital Assets

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 21 May 2017 |
 
Marriage Divorce Assets Non-marital

Nobody says ‘I do’ thinking that their marriage won't last. However, it is a sad fact that a large number of marriages do fail, with current figures somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent.

When couples decide to divorce, there can often be bitter wrangling over the financial and proprietary aspects of the marriage.

Generally, if one person has control over the finances during the marriage, the other party will be at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to the divorce proceedings.

Every marriage concerns an element of interdependence but when a couple divorces there is a need to divide assets, money and other property. However, these are broadly divided into two categories, ‘marital’ and ‘non-marital’ assets.

What Are Marital and Non-Marital Assets?

If you have assets that you owned before the marriage, such as money or property that you have inherited, payouts from personal injury awards or other legal settlements, or gifts that you receive during the marriage that were not intended as ‘family’ gifts, these are non-marital assets.

For example, you as an individual inherit a painting that you then sell at auction. If you deposit the proceeds into a joint bank account, or spend some or all of the money on your spouse or joint assets, this property then becomes marital property. There are ways to identify and track liquidated non-marital assets, but these procedures are seldom straightforward.

How to Protect Your Assets

In order to protect your non-marital assets from being counted as marital, always remember to keep them separate. If you are not yet married, consider talking to your future spouse about the assets that you both have and what you both intend to keep as your own. Although it’s not exactly romantic, it can help to avoid considerable emotional wrangling and bitterness in the future if the marriage fails.

Stay Credit Worthy

Keeping your own assets separate in a marriage is particularly important if you are at a financial disadvantage, e.g. if you are not working, are working but earn considerably less than your spouse, or if you are at home caring for children. Some spouses, usually wives, can rely solely on their husband’s means all their married lives and when it comes to divorce they can discover that they are barely credit worthy.

As a result it is vitally important that you retain a good credit rating, so that if you find yourself single again you are able to support yourself and obtain credit from lending institutions. The easiest way to do this is to have a credit card in your sole name. However, it is equally important to maintain your payments on this account, as a bad credit rating is as bad, if not worse, than having no credit history at all. Also, make sure that you are named on all the household accounts.

Keep a Record

Although it may seem cynical, it is also wise to make sure you keep yourself up to date as to the extent of your and your spouse’s assets from time to time. Make sure you have copies of proof of ownership, as in the event of a divorce these can go ‘missing.’

Finally, if you are on the brink of divorcing your spouse, make sure that you close any joint accounts immediately. The last thing you want is to be subsidising your spouse (and perhaps directly or indirectly their legal fees) after you have separated.

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[Add a Comment]
struggling - Your Question:
I brought a house whilst being married for 3 years. the mortgage was in my name and then I seperated from my husband after my son was born. I have paid the mortgage and all the bills whilst living seperate I never lived in the house I purchased nor did my husband. he has the keys and I have never changed the locks. he put a marital homerights order on the property which states I can never sell or remortgage the house without his consent. I have tried to sort matters out through writing letters through my solicitors but he keeps changing the goalpost and wants half the property even though he has not paid towards the mortgage or bills. what can I do im struggling to pay but I just want the property sorted so im digging into my savings.

Our Response:
Much depends upon where the money came from to fund the house upon purchase. If it was from the joint marital pot, then your ex may have a claim. You may wish to seek legal advice regarding this.
DivorceResource - 22-May-17 @ 12:56 PM
i brought a house whilst being married for 3 years. the mortgage was in my name and then i seperated from my husband after my son was born. i have paid the mortgage and all the bills whilst living seperate i never lived in the house i purchased nor did my husband. he has the keys and i have never changed the locks. he put a marital homerights order on the property which states i can never sell or remortgage the house without his consent. i have tried to sort matters out through writing letters through my solicitors but he keeps changing the goalpost and wants half the property even though he has not paid towards the mortgage or bills. what can i do im struggling to pay but i just want the property sorted so im digging into my savings.
struggling - 21-May-17 @ 11:19 PM
Hi, me and my husband bought a house together 4 years ago, I already had a house which i inherited from my parents. The sale of this house was the large deposit for the new one. If we divorced, and sold the new house would he be entitled to the deposit or just the remaining after the mortgage is paid?
lucie - 10-May-17 @ 9:42 PM
tight - Your Question:
If I bought my home 10yrs before meeting my husband we have not added on or no major problem to it.Do he have any interest in it

Our Response:
Much depends upon how long your marriage has been, whether you have any children and if so, who the primary carer of your children is. The longer your marriage has been, the more you may have to divide up your non-marital asset. I suggest you seek professional legal advice in order to explore your options.
DivorceResource - 9-May-17 @ 2:02 PM
Steve apple pie- Your Question:
IV been with my wife for 10 years from start to finish we were married for 4 years. I own a property which I bought 20 years ago. Everything is in my name ,and my wife has never contributed in any way ,I contributed to the family home all the time we were together, we have no children together. Can you give me a rough idea how it will all come to an end.

Our Response:
If you have no children together and the marriage was short. Then it is likely your home will be considered a pre-marital asset. If you lived with your wife for 10 years in the house, then regardless of what you have put into it in monetary terms, finances are considered joint (when you are married). Therefore, you may wish to seek some legal advice with regards to what your wife may be entitled to. She may not be entitled to half the house, but it is likely she would be entitled to a financial share if you have lived in in together for 10 years. If you only both lived in it after marriage which lasted four years, then you would have to consider making her some sort of financial offer. A solicitor, or divorce arbitration service would be able to help you with this, if you can't agree the terms between you.
DivorceResource - 9-May-17 @ 10:16 AM
If I bought my home 10yrs before meeting my husband we have not added on or no major problem to it.Do he have any interest in it
tight - 8-May-17 @ 8:52 PM
IV been with my wife for 10 years from start to finish we were married for 4 years . I own a property which I bought 20 years ago . Everything is in my name ,and my wife has never contributed in any way ,I contributed to the family home all the time we were together, we have no children together . Can you give me a rough idea how it will all come to an end .
Steve apple pie - 8-May-17 @ 8:48 AM
Hello. My husband and I have bought a house during marriage - but we put HIM the only owner in the contract (to avoid paying extra tax, as I own additional properties). I gave him the deposit money, for the mortgage, but I have no proof that they were used for that - except that I only sent £17000 in his personal account. I have not formally been on the mortgage. We haveminor children together. Do I have any chances to claim anything in the case of divorce?
Seina - 5-May-17 @ 7:48 PM
Swanster - Your Question:
I'm due to get married in the very near future & my future spouse has lost his job leaving him with no way of paying for his debts I don't earn enough money to help him do this , I own my own home & am worried that if I marry him my home can be repossessed to pay off his mounting debts , can you please advise me if this can happen.

Our Response:
Only the person whose name is on the original credit agreements etc is the person who is responsible for the debt. Therefore, through marriage you will not be responsible for paying or taking on your future husband's debts if they were accumulated under his name. If and while you have no financial links to him, his credit history will not affect yours.
DivorceResource - 4-May-17 @ 9:54 AM
I'm due to get married in the very near future & my future spouse has lost his job leaving him with no way of paying for his debts i don't earn enough money to help him do this , I own my own home & am worried that if I marry him my home can be repossessed to pay off his mounting debts , can you please advise me if this can happen .
Swanster - 3-May-17 @ 9:34 AM
My mum has been seperated from her husband for 10 years. They split due to violence on his part and he then left her for someone else. Due to his nature she never fought him for maintenance payments for my sister who was 10 at the time and he has never contributed any payments towards the mortgage or bills or anything. She tried to divorce him 3 time she on the grounds of Unreasonable behaviour , 3 year separation, 5 year seperation. He refused to sign each time and a few years ago requested she sell and give him half the money from the house. She purchased the property when she was 18 and is now 58. He had been on the mortgage and they were married for 6 years prior to separation. They had remortgaged the house during this time to clear his debts and her mortgage should be almost paid off by now. Due to the remortgage she still has quite a long time left on her mortgage and not much equity. If she was to go through divorce proceedings again would he be entitled to half the equity even though he hasn't contributed anything in the past 10 years ? Or would this be reduced because of this?
Jade - 30-Apr-17 @ 11:47 AM
My husband bought a property a year before we got married. We have been living in this property for approximate 1 year together- since he got the keys. He is studying (in a 2 year program) and does not have an income so I have been transferring him money for the mortgage for the duration of his studies. In the event of a divorce would I have a claim on the property
JustmarriedAndFighti - 29-Apr-17 @ 4:07 PM
AMDCASTILLO - Your Question:
Hi I had a question so my mother in law is going to be selling her house since it has doubled in value. problem is she is also going through a divorce. hearing is in june. but my question is since they have only been married for a year. and she has had the house 4 years before he came in the picture. the cara.EVERYTHING.he does not work or doesnt have anything at all. she made alll the payments and everything on the house he has not payed a dime since he has moved in.will she have to give him anything ? we are planning to get a new house with the money and just want to be reasured he doesnt get anything.thanks for reading

Our Response:
If the marriage has been short, if they have had no children together and if her husband has not contributed financially, then it is highly unlikely he would be awarded anything as the house will be considered a pre-marital asset that belongs to your M-i-L. However, this is UK law. I notice you said 'dime', so if you are an American resident, the law may be slightly different in the US.
DivorceResource - 28-Apr-17 @ 2:03 PM
hi i had a question so my mother in law is going to be selling her house since it has doubled in value... problem is she is also going through a divorce ... hearing is in june .. but my question is since they have only been married for a year .. and she has had the house 4 years before he came in the picture .. the cara...EVERYTHING..he does not work or doesnt have anything at all ... she made alll the payments and everything on the house he has not payed a dime since he has moved in...will she have to give him anything ? we are planning to get a new house with the money and just want to be reasured he doesnt get anything ...thanks for reading
AMDCASTILLO - 28-Apr-17 @ 7:24 AM
Champney - Your Question:
After 14yrs together of which we were married for 8yrs with two kids (2 and 4yrs old), my ex and I are getting a Divorce. He has a BTL property (in addition to our marital home) which he has recently sold. He bought the BTL property (in his own name) 1 year before we got together. Will I be entitled to the proceeds of the sale of the BTL property?

Our Response:
You would have to seek legal advice regarding this matter. Although it is theoretically considered a non-marital asset, due to the length of your partnership and the fact you have children together, you may have a claim.
DivorceResource - 26-Apr-17 @ 12:25 PM
After 14yrs together of which we were married for 8yrs with two kids (2 and 4yrs old), my ex and i are getting a Divorce.He has a BTL property (in addition to our marital home) which he has recently sold.He bought the BTL property (in his own name) 1 year before we got together.Will I be entitled to the proceeds of the sale of the BTL property?
Champney - 25-Apr-17 @ 1:50 PM
I'm about to go through a divorce.I've been living in a house for several yrs with my husband.The home was never in our names it was purchased for us by his parents as a fixer upper.We both used our own money and time for the improvements.with the verbal agreement that it would go into our names when work was done.the home has now tripled I value.But since divorce came up (my husband wants the divorce not me) Anyway now they will not put the house in our name because they don't want me to get half.Their are also other things that my husband inherited from his father's death.One being a Porsche that is kept on our property but His mother will not put that in my husband's name either.All to keep me from getting anything.They just tell me to get out of their house..Help I don't know what to do.I'm 74 yrs old with minimal ss income.thank you barb
Lou - 21-Apr-17 @ 5:52 PM
Jeff - Your Question:
My wife and I have separated after 8 years of marriage. We have one child. We are selling the marital home and splitting the equity equally. This is an agreement we have made by ourselves and our conveyancing solicitor has been instructed to divide funds in this way once it is sold. Once the house is sold, I will be buying my own home. Can she have a claim on this later on?

Our Response:
It is highly unlikely if you can prove you have split the proceeds of the house and the money is divided, that your ex can have a claim. As always in cases such as this, a 'clean break settlement' means that the parties will have no financial ties once the order is agreed or ruled upon by a court. While your ex may not be able to claim on your property, she may be able to claim a part of a personal pension later on if this is left out of any agreement now.
DivorceResource - 20-Apr-17 @ 2:19 PM
My wife and I have separated after 8 years of marriage. We have one child. We are selling the marital home and splitting the equity equally. This is an agreement we have made by ourselves and our conveyancing solicitor has been instructed to divide funds in this way once it is sold. Once the house is sold, I will be buying my own home. Can she have a claim on this later on?
Jeff - 20-Apr-17 @ 9:35 AM
Hi - I lived with my partner in a house I bought with my deposit and I paid all mortgage repayments. The house was in my name only. We both worked and had two children together.. the other half paid for childcare for 2/3yrs and I paid for all other bills. Does this mean she would be entitled to half the house or would I just be responsible for half the childcare fees? Regards
Lebb - 14-Apr-17 @ 7:14 PM
@Gary - both of your properties owned before you married will remain yours as pre-matrimonial assets. It's a short marriage and there are no kids, so you should be OK if your ex decides to contest it.
PP - 13-Apr-17 @ 2:03 PM
Hi We were married for 5yrs and there are no kids. The absolute was agreed a month ago. We bought 1 property together to live in during marriage. Prior to the marriage my ex had 1 buy to let property which i have no interest in at all. buti owned 4 buy to let properties prior to the marriage. I appreciate the matrimonial home would need to be split between me and my ex but can my ex claim on my buy to let rental properties ? During the marriage i kept all my finances seperate and we had no joint accounts or anything joint.
Gary - 8-Apr-17 @ 7:36 PM
hi i have been married for nearly eight years to someone from abroad prior to this marriage i was married for over 30 years and ffom this marriage i had a property which the deeds were in my sole name, this house was left standing empty for around three years within this time i was remarried and once i sold the property i made the decision to split the proceed down the middle and give half to my two children whom were now grown, my new husband did not agree with this at the time but did not push the issue at the time, however there has now been a break down in our marriage we have a new home for which we both pay for less a substantial amount i put into the home as a cash sum, i am not concerned about this amount or our existing homei am concerned as my husband is continuously mentioning that i had no right to give the money to my children, my question is can he lay claims to the money i gave to my children because we were married when i owned the property was it classed as a marital asset, i am afraid that he will try to take more from the settlement of our existing home because of me giving money to my children from the sale of my previous marital home of which i was the sole owner? please can you advise anything
freeeee - 29-Mar-17 @ 10:04 PM
Me & my husband have separated after 18yrs I have filed for divorce. what I'm asking is can I sell his gym equipment before we are actually divorced I paid for it all but have no receipts for it. He has taken everything else of his possessions he has been gone 3 months & has not paid a penny in child maintenance so wanted to sell what he's left but don't want to be in trouble with the law
Addy - 29-Mar-17 @ 3:25 PM
mgsmith33 - Your Question:
Hi - after 18 years of marriage and no children, we are divorcing. I owned matrimonial home prior to meeting him. I have been main breadwinner over the marriage - his contribution has been minimal (0 on the last 14 months as he does not work) & all bills etc. are in my sole name. I also have a deed of trust stating ownership 25% for him and remainder to me. I will be gutted if I need to give him half after working so hard for last 18 years to be mortgage free. help!

Our Response:
While your house may be considered a non-marital asset, the length of your marriage will make a difference if your ex wishes to pursue the matter, regardless of whether he has contributed financially or not. The court is not bound by the deed of trust, but it will take it into consideration. You would have to seek legal advice regarding this.
DivorceResource - 23-Mar-17 @ 3:06 PM
Hi - after 18 years of marriage and no children, we are divorcing. I owned matrimonial home prior to meeting him. I have been main breadwinner over the marriage - his contribution has been minimal (0 on the last 14 months as he does not work) & all bills etc. are in my sole name. i also have a deed of trust stating ownership 25% for him and remainder to me. I will be gutted if i need to give him half after working so hard for last 18 years to be mortgage free. help!
mgsmith33 - 23-Mar-17 @ 12:14 PM
Bridgette - Your Question:
Me and my husband have been married for 4 years and are now getting divorced. He owned a home long before we married and held onto it whilst he lived with me at my home. Do I have any claims to his home that he owned before we married?

Our Response:
Much depends upon whether you have children together - which would make a difference. However, as the marriage has been short and you already own a house (which in theory he could have a claim on too), then it is unlikely you would have a claim on his. You would have to seek legal advice if you wanted to find out for sure.
DivorceResource - 20-Mar-17 @ 2:41 PM
Ginge - Your Question:
I have a flat, which is still in my maiden name, for 8 years. My husband moved in 4 years ago and we've been married just over 2years. We always agreed verbally that it was mine and he wouldn't get anything of it if we ever split. Now we have split (his fault) and I'm worried he's going to try and claim from it. Everything even bills are in my name and he just paid me a set amount each month to help cover it.

Our Response:
Much depends upon how much financial worth he has put into your flat. If he has spent his own money refurbishing it etc, then he may wish to try to claim this back. You may wish to seek legal advice to conform whether it is likely he has a case to claim, or not.
DivorceResource - 20-Mar-17 @ 11:38 AM
I have a flat, which is still in my maiden name, for 8 years. My husband moved in 4 years ago and we've been married just over 2years. We always agreed verbally that it was mine and he wouldn't get anything of it if we ever split. Now we have split (his fault) and I'm worried he's going to try and claim from it. Everything even bills are in my name and he just paid me a set amount each month to help cover it.
Ginge - 19-Mar-17 @ 9:55 AM
I had severe postnatal depression after our child was born in 2002 and separated from my husband in 2007, he bullied me into not going to a solicitor and gave me £20,000.I was only working 2 days a week so reliant upon him for most things previously. Out of that £20,000 I had to buy everything for my new rental property, wardrobes, beds, washing machine, sofas and furnish the new house as well as pay off remaining monies owed on the new kitchen we had fitted the previous year in our martrimonial home, an overdraft and the family car, in short I was left with very little of the £20,000. He has since had me taken off the mortgage and threatened he'd make my life hell unless i Ageed To his settlement offer.I had no choice but to accept.Whilst we separated in 2006, we didn't divorce until 2009 and it is only now that I am better and less vulnerable I'm thinking I was very silly not going to a solicitor. Is it something I could re-visit now?
Robertsee - 18-Mar-17 @ 5:11 PM
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