The time has come…You are facing divorce or at least you are thinking about it… You are interested in finding out the law behind what belongs to you, and what belongs to you and your spouse.
Even if divorce is not knocking on your door, this is a smart move.
Family law can be frustrating but it is there to serve in the best interest of both spouses.
First of all, let me give you some friendly advice – your spouse’s lawyer is not your lawyer. Even if the divorce is by mutual agreement – your spouse’s lawyer will protect their interests and not yours.
That’s why contacting your own personal lawyer as soon as you have taken the divorce decision is your smartest move.
Your lawyer will help you understand all that is involved in the process and they should also take you through your matrimonial assets.
However, just so that you are prepared for what to expect, below is a list of the things that are considered matrimonial assets.
So what is a matrimonial asset?
A matrimonial asset is anything that the spouses together, or separately, have acquired as property and assets during their marriage.
Before you can understand individual items you must first ask yourself:
Do you have a prenup?
A prenup or prenuptial agreement can settle what is and what isn’t a matrimonial asset and is a signed agreement between the two spouses.
If you haven’t signed a prenup, this means that the family law court will decide which of your assets are matrimonial.
These are generally NOT considered matrimonial assets:
- Personal belongings – clothes, books and other personal items
- Inheritance from third parties
- Gifts and awards from third parties
- Insurance settlements
Everything else in your marriage is a matrimonial asset including:
- Family home
- other property
- business ownership
- financial assets
It is important to understand that even if one of the spouses does not have any financial contributions to the marriage, the assets that are acquired during the marriage are considered matrimonial.
This might seem pretty straightforward but here are a few examples where matrimonial assets are not as clear and the courts have to make tough decisions:
Imagine that you bought your home before you got married. After 15 years of marriage you have decided to divorce and you consider it to not be a matrimonial asset because it has been acquired before the marriage. However, most courts will consider the family home a matrimonial asset because the mortgage has been paid off in these 15 years and the not-owning spouse has contributed to that.
You receive an inheritance from your parents – a lump sum that you use to buy a new family car and start a home-based business.
When divorcing you might consider that the car and business are not matrimonial assets because their origin is inheritance. However, once you have used inherited assets for the benefits of the family, they become matrimonial assets so both the car and business will be divided in case of divorce.
As you can see, things are not as clear and straightforward as they seem at first glance.
Instead of making mistakes and to avoid unpleasant surprises, many people choose to consult a lawyer at the first thought of divorce. Everyone’s situation is different, that’s why it is critical to seek personal legal advice.
Do you have anything to add from your experiences?