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

Marital and Non-marital Assets

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 24 Oct 2018 |
 
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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My wife and I are divorcing after 4 years of marriage but 15 years together with two children.We have a joint property which will be sold and divided.I have a property which I purchased 20 years ago before I met her.This has a mortgage and was also remortgaged to purchase the joint property.Will I have to sell and divide the assets in my sole property.She is wanting half share of this.I am paying over the maintenance amount for my children who I have three days a week. My sole property is rented and with good tenants.
beardie - 24-Oct-18 @ 12:32 PM
We were married couples lived in a house .owned by me .bought recently . Now we separated.Is he got any type of rights in this property .
Mira - 16-Oct-18 @ 9:22 PM
I got married overseas, in Dec 2017?@, less than a year. In a scenario if a divorce now, can my wife claim % of my flat (bought in 2012) and my car (bought before marriage last year). Both fully maintained by my finances coming out of my bank account. She is trying to get the council tax in her name as she has started a masters for the student discount but everything else is born by me. Any implications on my car and flat?
Ted - 25-Sep-18 @ 12:36 PM
Hi. I used to own my own home. I sold it and used the proceeds so me and my wife could buy a house together. I paid a deposit of 18k and she paid nothing. 17 months after getting married and moving in together, she moved out. I paid a 4k penalty to remortgage the house in my name only. She inherited 40k the day she left... If / when we divorce, would she be entitled to anything? I have no savings. I've only just paid off the wedding! We have already divided furniture etc. We never had a joint account. Thanks for your help.
Fran - 23-Sep-18 @ 10:08 PM
My daughter has recently separated after less than a year married and her husband is in the process of buying her out of their house There are no children. There are a number of items of expensive pieces of furniture which my daughter is paying for via credit agreements in her name.She has still over three years of payments to make. She has asked for the items but been told no. Can she just go in and remove those items from the house since she has proof of ownership via the credit agreements.
Carrie - 21-Sep-18 @ 5:19 PM
I live with my husband and son who have joint mortgage of the house l am in deep financial trouble which l can not get out of l am thinking of bankruptcy have l any asset.
Tina - 19-Sep-18 @ 10:19 AM
ali - Your Question:
I have a few properties that I purchased before I got married. I have child with her now, If I was to get a divorce would my assets still stay mine or does she get a percentage?

Our Response:
Your wife (if she is the primary carer of your child) is likely to get a percentage, as the court will put the child first in any financial settlement.
DivorceResource - 17-Sep-18 @ 12:53 PM
I have a few properties that I purchased before I got married. I have child with her now, If I was to get a divorce would my assets still stay mine or does she get a percentage?.
ali - 15-Sep-18 @ 3:03 PM
Michy - Your Question:
Hi my dad bought a home with his wife in 2000. They divorced about 6 years ago and he signed something not realising that the house is now solely in her name. He thought it was a paper to sell the house. Is there anything he can do about it? He doesn't pay the mortgage anymore.

Our Response:
Your father would have to seek legal advice regarding this matter as it would have to be referred to court if his ex wife is not in agreement.
DivorceResource - 7-Sep-18 @ 12:27 PM
Hi my dad bought a home with his wife in 2000. They divorced about 6 years ago and he signed something not realising that the house is now solely in her name. He thought it was a paper to sell the house. Is there anything he can do about it? He doesn't pay the mortgage anymore.
Michy - 4-Sep-18 @ 8:07 PM
Deano - Your Question:
I got married in 2014 and separated 2017. I had paid for my house with my inheritance in 2007 and have lived in the house for 20 years.I took a small mortgage so that my husbands children could live with us which is in my name my account and I pay. He paid 500 as did I into joint every month to cover all other bills and food.When we separated one of his children stayed with me and he does not pay me anything for her up keep.What claim does he have on my home

Our Response:
Given the marriage was short, it is highly unlikely your husband can make a successful claim if the mortgage is in your name and you owned the house previously for a good length of time.
DivorceResource - 4-Sep-18 @ 3:28 PM
Hill - Your Question:
Hi, I bought a property in 2000. I got married in 2004. I remortgaged the property and put my wife on the deed and mortgage. It became a rental property. Now we are divorcing. Since I acquired the property pre marriage, even though her name is on it will it be considered pre martial or martial? Thx

Our Response:
The property will be considered marital given the length of your marriage. Much will also depend upon the amount of money you put into the property pre-marriage and whether you have children or not.
DivorceResource - 4-Sep-18 @ 12:22 PM
@Vampi -Only if your ex objects or attempts to challenge this might there be an issue.
DaN - 4-Sep-18 @ 9:44 AM
I got divorced in 2016 and live in my house which I have owned solely for 13yrs before I got married.Its in my name and so is the mortgage and always has been. There was never a financial settlement made when we divorced due to a negligent solicitor.The marriage only lasted 2 years.He has his own assets and also thieved 28K from our joint bank acc which I have never claimed.He has never claimed from me either. I'm now planning to move house and my solicitor sent me a client form.It is asking me if I married since purchasing my property.I have plus got divorced. In the absence of an agreement, will this prevent my solicitor and me from selling my home now? I dont want it all dragged up again.So I guess I'm asking if this will prevent me selling my home?
Vampi - 3-Sep-18 @ 12:48 AM
Hi, I bought a property in 2000.I got married in 2004.I remortgaged the property and put my wife on the deed and mortgage.It became a rental property.Now we are divorcing.Since I acquired the property pre marriage, even though her name is on it will it be considered pre martial or martial? Thx
Hill - 30-Aug-18 @ 11:24 PM
I got married in 2014 and separated 2017. I had paid for my house with my inheritance in 2007 and have lived in the house for 20 years. I took a small mortgage so that my husbands children could live with us which is in my name my account and I pay. He paid 500 as did I into joint every month to cover all other bills and food. When we separated one of his children stayed with me and he does not pay me anything for her up keep. What claim does he have on my home
Deano - 29-Aug-18 @ 10:50 AM
I am seeking some advice. I married 3 years ago and didn’t protect my own assets - house £250,000, savings, good pension etc. I am now considering separation but can my husband claim 50% of my assets. He entered the partnership with nothing and has not paid mortgage etc. My name is on everything and i have paid everything. The only thing he has given is the odd £100 to ‘help’ with food and socialising.
JC - 20-Aug-18 @ 7:57 PM
Hi I left the marital home 19 months ago, I left my x husband the house with all contents in it (housr not bought rented) but my question is we had savings what we saved together about £9000,, I was given about about 1000 to start up in my new flat, he kept the car and everything,, am I entitled to any of the savings or anything although I walked out? Thanks in advance
Stacie23 - 20-Aug-18 @ 12:02 PM
Hi my partner is still married to his ex but they have been separated for 4 years now. The house that they bought together (which he paid the deposit for and some of the bills) has now been put up for sale. The house was signed in her name due to him being self employed at the time. Where does he stand? Can he get his deposit back and also can he get his share of the interest of the house from martial interest? At least £10,000 of the deposit was a gift from his family (mother and father) he has all receipts and statements to prove where the money came from and where it went to and also receipts of bills that he paid during and after the time he was living there. The house has been put up for sale without notifying him first. Any help please? We have also rang the solicitors to start the ball rolling for divorce but would like as much information as possible to help us to get his money back for his family... and any marital interest is a bonus!
Help please - 18-Aug-18 @ 1:06 PM
@Elou - I wouldn't worry. What's he going to do, take you to you court! You have every right to get rid of the stuff, absolutely.
HelH - 17-Aug-18 @ 2:24 PM
@Bone of contention Have you applied for child maintenance from him? I should do that asap. As soon as you register he will then need to give you money for your kids. Anything that is considered joint marital money you can claim for as part of your separation settlement.
MaddieB - 14-Aug-18 @ 3:41 PM
Leo - Your Question:
Hi I got married 5 years ago in 2013 ; my wife moved out following year(2014); a year later (2015) I asked her for divorce- since which she disappeared; I recently got decree absolute from court after 18 months of sending letters and no response. Now she has come back to me to claim finances of me ; I wonder if she can still has any right of claim on my finances. I bought a house in 2016 on my own and am the sole owner and paid everything by myself. Can she have any claim on my property and other finances taking we haven’t even been together for over 3 years without any contact. How can I fight my case

Our Response:
As the marriage was very short, unless you have used what could be construed as joint marital finances then your ex could have a case. You may wish to seek professional legal advice.
DivorceResource - 14-Aug-18 @ 12:09 PM
My husband walked out about 6 weeks. He continued to pay the bills he had always paid, for the first 6 weeks and has now cancelled all direct debits. He was the main breadwinner throughout our 10 year relationship (4 year marriage). He has given us £300 which I had to beg for so that I could feed 3 children (1 child of the marriage) He received a bonus at the end of June and has found himself a new flat already. He has a motorbike that he pays a loan on which is still at my property. He's asked for it a few times but I haven't replied. Anyway, I'm guessing if he's spent his bonus there is nothing I can do about it is there? Also did I have to give him his bike or can I make him wait for it? We are starting mediation in a couple of weeks as he is under the impression he doesn't have to provide for us.
Bone of contention - 14-Aug-18 @ 9:11 AM
Hi I got married 5 years ago in 2013 ; my wife moved out following year(2014); a year later (2015) I asked her for divorce- since which she disappeared; I recently got decree absolute from court after 18 months of sending letters and no response. Now she has come back to me to claim finances of me; I wonder if she can stillhas any right of claim on my finances. I bought a house in 2016 on my own and am the sole owner and paid everything by myself. Can she have any claim on my property and other finances taking we haven’t even been together for over 3 years without any contact. How can I fight my case
Leo - 13-Aug-18 @ 3:21 PM
Mr X - Your Question:
My partner and I are getting married in the next few months. I am a much higher earner. The house we live in I have lived in from before our relationship started. I have substantial equity but do not own it outright and continue to pay the mortgage solely on my own and the mortgage is in just my name. If we divorce would my partner in the future be entitled to a share of the property (which has not contributed to). I also have a daughter from a previous relationship, who only stays with me some of the time and I would like to protect her inheritance.

Our Response:
If you marry, then the house will remain a pre-marital asset. However, your future wife will still be entitled to a share dependent upon the length of the marriage and more importantly whether you have children together or not. If you have children, then this will give your new wife more of a claim to the property. The longer the marriage, the greater claim she will have regardless of whether she contributes to the marriage financially (as in marriage all finances are considered jointly owned).
DivorceResource - 13-Aug-18 @ 3:17 PM
My partner and I are getting married in the next few months. I am a much higher earner. The house we live in I have lived in from before our relationship started. I have substantial equity but do not own it outright and continue to pay the mortgage solely on my own and the mortgage is in just my name. If we divorce would my partner in the future be entitled to a share of the property (which has not contributed to). I also have a daughter from a previous relationship, who only stays with me some of the time and I would like to protect her inheritance.
Mr X - 12-Aug-18 @ 9:29 PM
Blues12 - Your Question:
I am intending to get married in November, I am fortunate to bringing in considerate assets including some property. Is there a way of protecting these just in case the marriage becomes sour? We dont and will not have kids. Thanks

Our Response:
As stated in the article, you can protect your assets via a prenuptial agreement. This a formal agreement which sets out how a couple’s assets will be divided in the event of them divorcing or separating. They are generally sought where one partner has substantial wealth prior to the marriage and seeks to protect that wealth in the event of the marriage failing.
DivorceResource - 9-Aug-18 @ 12:44 PM
I am intending to get married in November, I am fortunate tobringing in considerate assets including some property. Is there a way of protecting these just in case the marriage becomes sour? We dont and will not have kids. Thanks
Blues12 - 7-Aug-18 @ 4:54 PM
@Nataliemik - if the couple are arguing, you can stay until there is a court ruling to say you can't anymore. He might not be entitled to his wife's properties but it would be dependent on how long they have been married and whether they have kids under 18. If you signed the tenancy agreement with her then you should be OK. It musn't make you feel great though as it's possibly put you in limbo :(
SanD - 6-Aug-18 @ 10:35 AM
Me & my partner are currently renting a property, we have been here nearly 9 years. Our landlord came round un expected saying him & his wife are splitting up & there selling everything, saying we have to move out, but don’t rush,so we have contacted his wife & she has said she isn’t selling the house, the rental houses are all in her name & we are welcome to stay here for many more years. However we don’t know what to do now, is he intitled to half of all her properties? Do we look for somewhere else or just carry on here?
Nataliemik - 5-Aug-18 @ 10:32 AM
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