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

Marital and Non-marital Assets

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 18 Jan 2021 |
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]
Hi I’m sorry to ask but I’m going to be homeless after my marriage has turned really bad I have 2 children 5and 9 I would appreciate any advice as to what happens when I’m asked to leave the marrital house many thanks
Rookie - 18-Jan-21 @ 9:22 PM
Husband of 15 years left suddenly and without warning a few weeks ago. We have no joint assets, bank accounts, property or children together. He has a property from before he met me though we have been renting elsewhere. I don’t pay rent as he refuses to rent out the property he owns as he can afford to but before leaving used to use it as a getaway. What are my rights?
Other - 15-Mar-20 @ 4:04 PM
I was with my husband for nearly 10yeats and married after 7 years but are now separated and both having children with other people. We have no children together. We bought a house in 2014 before we got married, he says my name isn’t on the house so I’m not entitled to anything from it but I had to go in and sign some papers with the mortgage lender. I had to leave our home with my son from a previous relationship and start over with nothing and he maintained his job and lived in the house. The house now sits empty as he has moved in with his new partner. Would I be entitled to anything
Confused - 19-Jan-20 @ 3:00 PM
HI My marriage has been rocky since a particular event and my husband is doing every trick to minimize what he has to pay out in case ofa divorce. I have two kids and trying to work things out as their well being is paramount to me. He owns property abroad in Mauritius and has owned it pre-marriage . He has owned itfor 20 years. He decided to go to Mauritius last year and I am suspecting that he may have changed the deed and gifted it to his brother or sister on paper to minimise what he would have to pay out or even thinking that is he dies I may inherit it and sell; he would trust his family more. Is he allowed to do this despite being in a civil marriage with me?
fahms - 16-Jan-20 @ 3:29 PM
I divorced My Ex 6 years ago he is still able to control my finances by keeping me in debt. refuses to sign my home over to me. he serve as a magistrate and held the divorce in the court he serves in. this was not right. I cannot find information on the process of holding it in the same court.he was able to manipulate the court and question me in court even though he committed adultery and had been violent toward mi in the marriage.
coolrun - 16-Jul-19 @ 9:22 PM
My wife just came from india last year after me fighting with home office for 7years she just left me 3 weeks ago wanting a divorce she never worked I inherited 3 properties 2 without morgage would she be intilled to anything thc
Jazz - 7-Jun-19 @ 7:35 PM
Hi i am currently separating from my husband. I owned a property before we met (with 2 children from my previous husband) and he owned his own house. His house has been rented since we married with the mortgage being paid on a repayment mortgage. There is now around 79k equity in his house. ( it was in negative equitywhen we met as he bought his ex girlfriend out costing 10k). I had a substantial deposit on my property so had 55k equity in mine. Neither of us are on the others mortgage. He has said he wants to buy me out of my house that we live in with our 2 children. I don't wish to move out of my house. Surely he keeps his house and I keep mine...
Saddened - 12-Apr-19 @ 3:18 PM
Hi I've got married 9 years ago and now getting divorce with my husband. During our marriage I have managed to acquired a property on my own and titled solely on my name. Will my husband get a share from it? How can I make sure that he won't be able to put his hands on it?
Kai - 20-Mar-19 @ 3:12 PM
My ex-wife, joined me from abroad in 2009, we got married in september 2009,we have two young children under 10yrs old, my ex wife filed in divorce in Dec 2014 and decree abolute was granted 2016, we been apart since then and I pay voluntary child maintenance since then, but now I want to have a financial settlement .ie a clean break or consent order, I owned 2 properties before we got married and she never contributed financially during our marriage, is she entitled to any share of my properties. Regards puresoul
puresoul - 10-Feb-19 @ 9:50 AM
Hi, Have been in a relationship for 13 years but not married and no children. We did own a house together although have sold this and about £90k sits in a savings account. Other assets are all cash, I have about £120k savings where as my partner has approx £30k. I have no intention on leaving my partner although want to understand my legal position if I were to. I think if anything where to happen we would simply split the £90k from the house sale equally and that would be that. However, the problem is more likely come from my partner's family...both her mum and two of her half-brothers have, in the past, suggested that my savings are also my partners and that we are common-law husband and wife. I believe their interest is that my partner's father died a few years ago and essentially left his half of the house to his two children in trust (whilst the mother lives there). I would never dream of trying to incorporate their family home into any separation although feel that if my partner was to try and claim any ownership over my savings then I would have an even stronger (at least moral) argument to having a share of what she has essentially inherited in trust (because of how I have helped care for her father and mother for years whilst their own children have been completely absent). Can you please help with some advice, pointers, further reading etc? Without elaborating any further, our relationship has almost broken down recently because of her families actions.
TorturedBoyfriend - 8-Jan-19 @ 10:14 AM
I have been married for 13 years, bought a house which I’ve rented since bought and never lived in it alone or with my wife/family. I wanted to know if my wife has ANY claim to it if we were to divorce. ?
Pillick - 7-Jan-19 @ 7:55 PM
Been married 2 1/2 years after meeting my wife months previous. I have my own property which she moved into, had my own car. I pay all the bills and have offered her money to accept a divorce, so I keep the property. Help
Loser - 2-Jan-19 @ 12:57 PM
Me and my husband have been separated now for six years I left him with the property as my mum and son were still living there and left with just a suitcase of clothes, I have recently heard my husband is planning on selling the property am I entitled to anything from the sale, the mortgage was solely in his name
Dixiesnanny - 14-Dec-18 @ 8:50 PM
I met my husband 11 yrs ago I moved to be with him he rarely worked I paid for most things and eventually lost my house credit rating etc I had a well paid job and was persuaded to pay out 700 for Windows he signed up for our future eventually I moved back home he came with me because he didn't have a choice his words I kept him for a year he finally got a job we got married i needed surgery he refused to allow me to go on sick I had an accident at work that left me disabled he made it clear he did not want me any more information left he has since used me again because he was in trouble and then dropped me again on a rough calculation 17 thousands do pounds was paid out by me to keep him and his I have literally lost everything other than the furniture I paid for he inherited a substantial amount ofor money in 2015 can I ask for some or all of the money I paid out for him on divorce or do I walk away with my head held high
Sassy - 12-Dec-18 @ 11:23 PM
My husband and I are divorcing. I have a property I bought 4 years before I met him, which he has only stayed in at weekend as another address is his main residence. He has never paid towards my house at all, not even towards the bills. We have together 3 years. Is he entitled to a share of my house? We have a separate joint property
Bankrupt - 21-Nov-18 @ 6:01 PM
My daughter and her fiancé have just had a baby. They have agreed that she will be a stay at home mother. They currently rent a property. Her fiancé earns a very good salary and and is buying a large property which will be the family home. He does not wish to put her on the title deeds as he is financing it entirely by himself and wishes to protect his investment.My daughter will not be contributing financially as she will not be earning. They each have a (mortgaged and rented) property in their own names acquired prior to their relationship. Assuming they get married does my daughter have any financial interest in the family home or right of occupation, should the marriage fail?
GBo - 14-Nov-18 @ 8:11 PM
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
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