If your marriage has broken down and divorce looks likely, one of the most contentious issues is likely to be who remains in the marital home. In very straightforward cases, the joint assets are equally distributed between the two parties. Various factors are taken into consideration, however, before the court makes an order, and every case is judged on its own merits. The length of the marriage and who owns which assets are important considerations.
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All assets acquired during the course of a marriage are considered to be matrimonial property, including the family home, other property, savings, investments, pension funds, insurance policies and valuable items such as jewellery and antiques. All these assets are put into the matrimonial pot and in most cases they are shared equally.
Assets that were brought to the marriage by only one of the parties are classed as non-matrimonial property. This may be a property one spouse purchased before the marriage, shares in a family business or an inheritance. In the vast majority of divorce cases, non-matrimonial property is not included in the divorce pot, especially when the marriage is a short one.
The matrimonial home
Exceptions are often made when it comes to the matrimonial home, even if it originally belonged to only one spouse. The court will look at all the circumstances of the case, considering in particular the length of the marriage and whether there are any children involved.
When looking at financial matters within divorce proceedings, the court will spend time analysing both parties' financial positions. Each spouse must prepare a written statement known as an affidavit, providing details of their respective incomes, outgoings and any other relevant financial information. A wife who has not contributed financially to the mortgage or household bills during the marriage may still be entitled to make a claim on the family home, because she may have contributed in other important ways, such as looking after the children while her husband worked or supporting him in his business endeavours. Other factors the court will consider when deciding how to divide the matrimonial assets are the parties' ages, the lifestyles they are accustomed to and their future earning potential. The court has the power to make various orders, including transfer of ownership of a property, sale of the property and orders for maintenance and lump sum payments.
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