When couples separate, it is natural for the parties to want to protect their financial position whether it be their pension, an inheritance or the assets they brought to the marriage.
It is a requirement that each party to a divorce provides full disclosure of their financial position. This means that information about all assets in your sole name or jointly with anyone else must be revealed. Despite this requirement, with good legal advice, you can seek to protect some of your assets.
The courts look at a number of factors when dividing assets upon divorce and the criteria is set out in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. First priority is always given to the needs of any children of the relationship and what arrangements will be made for them. Other considerations include the earning capacity of the other party, the standard of living enjoyed by the parties before divorce and any financial contributions made by either party.
When considering how to divide pensions the starting point is to consider whether the pension was set up prior to the marriage. If so, then a calculation can be made to establish the amount of the pre-relationship accrual, although this can be quite a complicated calculation to make and may require some expert input. It is quite common for the value of the pension accumulated during the marriage to be divided between the parties.
Inheritances are treated differently to other assets on divorce and can be easier to protect. It is recognised that the person who bequeathed the inheritance would have wanted the person they left the funds to, to be the one who has the benefit of those funds. Inheritances will therefore be treated differently to other assets on separation. An inheritance becomes much harder to protect if it is put into joint names or, used for the benefit of both parties such as paying off the mortgage on the family home so it is advisable to keep any money received by way of inheritance in the sole name of the beneficiary.
Assets acquired prior to the marriage
Whether an asset can be protected will depend largely upon the length of the marriage. The longer the marriage, the harder it will be to separate a particular asset out from the matrimonial assets. There are no hard and fast rules about how long a relationship needs to be before the asset is treated as a matrimonial asset but as a rough guide, in a marriage of 15 years or more, assets are much more likely to be seen as matrimonial assets but a marriage of 3 years may mean that the assets each party brought to the marriage are retained by them. shorter marriage, such as 3 or 4 years may mean that the assets each party brought to the marriage are retained by that person.