The breakdown of a marriage is the catalyst for a divorce, the legal proceedings are the challenging mid-section, and the divorce settlement is the final act which allows both parties go their separate ways with a share of the marital assets.
When it comes to divorce, there are many different aspects to consider and discuss with your family lawyer, but one of the most commonly asked questions is “what am I entitled to in a divorce settlement?” For some, this line of questioning may feel a bit money-hungry, but the truth is, the outcome of your divorce settlement will directly impact the rest of your life — both the short and long-term.
So, if you’re wondering “what am I entitled to in a divorce?”, here are a few essential things to know.
What Are Marital Assets?
Matrimonial assets, commonly known as marital assets, are the financial assets you and your spouse have accumulated throughout your marriage. Marital assets can include any of the following:
- Family home
- Other properties
- Money in bank accounts
- Furniture & belongings
- Stocks, bonds, trusts and mutual funds
- Business assets
Are Marital Assets Split down the Middle?
It is a common misconception that marital assets are split equally between you and your spouse in a divorce settlement — however, a 50/50 split is generally a starting point for the court to work with. The court aims to divide your assets in a manner both equal and fair — which, in many cases, doesn’t necessarily mean 50% each.
The court will consider the following factors:
- The needs of each party. If one spouse is deemed to be in a financially weaker situation, they may be awarded more as part of a fair settlement.
- Future earnings. A spouse who has sacrificed future earnings and career progression to care for children may be awarded more capital to support their post-divorce lifestyle.
- Child custody. If you are responsible for caring for children, you may be awarded a larger share to ensure they are well looked after.
Courts will do their utmost to split matrimonial assets equally — however, they will establish what can be considered “equal” based on your particular circumstances.
How is the Family Home Divided?
For most divorcing couples, the family home tends to be the most significant asset in the divorce settlement. Deciding what happens to the property can be one of the biggest causes of stress and hostility — so it is vital to understand how a family home is divided in a divorce.
A separating couple will usually terminate cohabitation before the divorce proceedings, and so will consider one of the following options:
- Sell and Split. This is where both parties move out and sell the family home. The money — if sufficient — will then be split between each party to buy another property.
- Buying Out. One spouse can buy the other out of the property to become the sole owner.
- Transfer Value. This consists of one spouse transferring some of the property value to the other. The departing spouse will no longer own the property but will maintain a stake in the value of the home. If the property is sold at a later date, they will receive a percentage.
- Leave Ownership Unchanged. This involves one spouse continuing to live in the house, but the ownership of the property remaining shared.
- Mesher Order. This is exclusive to England and Wales and involves postponing the sale of the property until a later date, for example, when the youngest child moves out. The court will then divide the sale value of the property as it sees fit.
Will Grounds for Divorce Affect the Divorce Settlement?
It is unlikely the grounds for divorce will play a part or have any influence over the outcome of a financial settlement — even adultery or unpleasant behaviour. With that said, exceptions can be made in cases of extreme circumstances and behaviour — such as domestic violence or abuse. Another example is where one spouse squanders money or sabotages matrimonial assets in some way.
Want to know more about divorce settlements? Get in touch with our team of specialist family lawyers today to schedule a FREE no obligation consultation.