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Divorce - matrimonial property v non-matrimonial property

View profile for Karen Johnson
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Divorce - matrimonial property v non-matrimonial property

A recent case* is a good reminder of the importance of establishing different types of property when dealing with financial remedy issues on divorce.

The wife had made an application for a financial remedy order as part of divorce proceedings. The husband considered that the total assets available to the husband and wife were in the region of £50 million and the wife considered them to be £60 million. There was an additional $50 million held in an offshore trust but it was ultimately accepted that these should not be included as their children were the principal beneficiaries of that trust.

The husband offered to transfer to the wife his half share of their London property. This would leave them each with a broadly equal split of the assets based on his values. The wife sought the London property, plus a further payment of £10,000. This proposal was based on the suggestion that £14 million non-matrimonial inherited wealth should be ring-fenced and not fall to be divided between them.

When considering the award, the judge first sought to determine the value of the overall assets. She then went on to determine which of the assets were matrimonial and which were non-matrimonial. 

With regards to the inherited wealth, she determined that this was indeed non-matrimonial. The wife had kept it entirely separate from the matrimonial assets and this was still the case, even having regard to the husband’s involvement with the funds as an investment manager.

Having determined the extent of the matrimonial assets, the judge was satisfied that the husband would be able to meet his needs with 50%. Accordingly, there was no need to have recourse to the non-matrimonial assets which would remain with the wife. The end result was that the husband was required to transfer to the wife his interest in the London property and pay a lump sum of £6,362,445.

It is important to acknowledge that the extent of the matrimonial assets here was key to being able to ring-fence the inherited wealth. If the matrimonial assets had not been sufficient to meet both of their needs, the court would most certainly have looked to the other assets to meet those needs.

A further key fact was the finding that the non-matrimonial assets had been kept separate and not intermingled with the other assets. This was a 33-year marriage and had they not been kept separate, they would have been considered matrimonial. Whilst contributions are a factor considered by the court, these tend to carry less importance as the marriage gets longer.

It is important to seek legal advice if you are considering entering into a divorce process. Find out where you stand in relation to assets that have been acquired prior to the marriage or as a result of inheritance. Our specialist team of divorce and separation lawyers offers practical and understandable advice specific to your circumstances and needs.

We can also advise and assist in relation to pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements where you are married, or getting married, but wish to protect pre-marital or inherited wealth against the risk of marriage breakdown.

For more information as to how we can help you, and for a free no obligation 15 minute chat, I can be contacted on 01206 217305 or

*WX v HX (Treatment of Matrimonial and Non-Matrimonial Property) [2021] EWHC 241