How are assets divided when you divorce?

Unhappy couple sitting on couch after quarrel fight thinking of break up or divorce

Gillbanks Family Law gives advice on dividing assets - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Vanessa Gillbanks from Gillbanks Family Law discusses the division of assets when seeking separation. There’s long been confusion surrounding what happens to assets when a couple divorces – especially the marital home. In many cases an amicable agreement can be reached, but if there’s a dispute, family law solicitors can help.

The first thing that a couple should do is draw up a list of their assets. The family home should be included, no matter who it’s legally registered to, along with financial assets acquired during the marriage (and in some cases beforehand) like bank accounts, shares, investments and pensions, although these may be considered separately. The starting point for division of assets is an equal split, but a court may decide on a different ratio.

Things that can affect a decision include:
- Length of the marriage
- Health issues suffered by either of the parties
- The age of the couple
- Any income or likely income
- The parties’ individual needs and ability to meet them
- Any contributions they’ve made
- Ages of the couple’s children
- Differences in income and pensions
- Other relevant circumstances

Dividing up a couple’s assets is a delicate balancing act. Even if any of the factors applies, it doesn’t mean that there will be an automatic change to the ratio division.

Assets that were owned before marriage or which have been acquired afterwards won’t immediately be taken into account, although they may be considered relevant to meeting one parties’ future needs.

Where the parties are not married It’s a common misconception that people who live together as a couple have the same legal rights as married couples and civil partnerships.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case under current law. Despite this, claims may still be made using property and trust law, which relies on legal title and the parties intentions and not on what is fair and reasonable or any need basis.

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It can be difficult to prove you have a beneficial interest in property or to show if jointly owned it should be shared unequally. Living agreements can assist if entered into at the start or during the relationship.

For more information contact Vanessa Gillbanks or visit