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What is the difference between matrimonial and non-matrimonial assets?

Matrimonial assets tend to be those which have been generated or accumulated during the marriage whereas non-matrimonial assets tend to be assets which are acquired outside of the marriage such as assets owned before marriage or assets received by one party during the marriage without contribution from the other such as through inheritance or a gift.

The discretion of the court when making financial awards is wide ranging and the way the court will deal with this distinction varies from case to case so it is always important to seek advice about your particular circumstances. However, in broad principles, any asset which is “matrimonial” in nature is usually shared unless there is good reason not to. If an asset is non-matrimonial, an argument could be raised that there ought to be a departure from an equal share of the asset to reflect the fact it is from a source external to the marriage. However:

  • If financial resources are limited such that a party’s needs cannot be met without using the non-matrimonial property, the fact it is non-matrimonial will carry little weight, if any.
  • The family home is seen as core to the marriage and is often treated differently. It is invariably treated as a matrimonial asset even if it would have been non-matrimonial in nature.
  • If a non-matrimonial asset has been intermingled with a matrimonial asset, a court may place less weight on the fact it started as non-matrimonial in nature.
  • If the parties were married for a short period of time, a court may place greater weight on the fact that an asset is non-matrimonial and may be persuaded to allow a greater departure from equality than if the parties have been married for a long period of time.

The court will always have a mind to fairness and is likely to take a step back and consider whether the overall division of the assets is “fair” bearing in mind the parties respective financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage.

Related FAQs

Is it possible to proceed with a hearing in person for any COP matters?

Any hearings attended in person will need to be approved by the judge hearing the matter, if necessary, in consultation with the regional lead COP judge. Such requests are highly unlikely to be granted during COVID-19 unless there is a genuine urgency. However, it is deemed to be appropriate matters are likely to be adjourned on the basis that a remote hearing is not possible and a hearing in person is not safe or possible.

Can I require employees to take holiday during furlough?

Yes. Government guidance now confirms that employers can be required to take holiday during a period of furlough, so long as they are given minimum notice to do so. The notice required is double the length of the holiday.

Employers are also able to cancel employees’ holidays (or require them not to take holiday) if they are on furlough, for example if they are not in a position to pay the additional 20% top up to their normal wages (or more where they earn in excess of the £2,500 monthly cap on furlough payments). Again, employers are required to provide a minimum period of notice of cancellation, which in this case, is the length of the planned holiday.

Employers can ask employees to take or cancel holiday with less notice but they would need to get their agreement to do so.

Government guidance has been updated to state that “Employees should not be placed on furlough for a period simply because they are on holiday for that period.” If a period of furlough happens to coincide with an employee’s holiday then you should ensure that there are business grounds to support furlough being used in that instance so that it isn’t just being used as a means to fund holiday utilisation.

My ex-husband has died and I was receiving maintenance payments from him. He hasn’t left me anything in their Will. What can I do?

You may be able to make a claim against your ex-spouse’s estate on the basis that their Will does not make ‘reasonable financial provision’ for you. You will not be able to bring a claim if you have remarried, or if a condition of your divorce explicitly states that you will not make a claim against their estate.

These types of claims are very fact-specific so it is not possible to give a straightforward yes or no answer as to whether any such claim is available to you.  The court will consider all factors which we can explore with you in more detail.

Due to the lockdown and government guidelines, my partner and I have moved in to the house I own. Is there anything I need to be worried about?

Where a couple is not married, they have limited rights in relation to each other’s assets and these mainly relate to rights over property assets. There is complex Trust law which governs whether or not your partner could claim an interest in your property and it generally relates to where someone has invested in renovations on the property or promises have been made. If this is something you are concerned about, you and your partner could enter in to a Cohabitation Agreement. These Agreements can set out various matters, including who will pay the bills and where each of you would live if you separated. Most importantly, they can record your intentions about who owns the property and exclude any rights your partner would have against your property.

Which agreements will qualify for exemption?

There are four criteria which must be satisfied if an agreement is to be considered exempt:

  • It must improve production or distribution, or promoting technical or economic progress – the guidance suggests that cooperation ensuring essential goods and services can be made available to the public, or an important sub-set of the public such as key workers, will satisfy this criterion.
  • It must allow consumers a fair share of the resulting benefit – the guidance suggests this will be the case where the action prevents or reduces shortages.
  • It must not impose on the undertakings concerned restrictions which are not indispensable to the attainment of the above benefits – the guidance suggests this will be the case where the cooperation is the only reasonable option due to the urgency of the crisis and where the cooperation is temporary in nature.
  • It must not afford the undertakings concerned the possibility of eliminating competition – therefore the parties must endeavour to retain competition in respect of the products (in particular price competition).