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Divorce: are assets received an asset of a marriage?

When a married couple with children is getting divorced and the financial arrangements are being considered, first consideration must be given to “the welfare while a minor of any child of the family who has not attained the age of eighteen”. In a recent case, the extent to which this principle applies was evident and led to an interesting variation to the general, though not absolute, rule that premarital assets are primarily to be regarded as the assets of the person who brought them into the marriage and therefore may be preserved for them.

The case involved a couple who had divorced after 8 years of marriage. They had two children. Five years before meeting his then wife, the husband was injured in a car crash and received £500,000 in compensation. He claimed that retention of the award would be fair as it was awarded to compensate him for his injuries. However, his wife claimed that the sum needed to be taken into account in order to provide a sufficient sum for her to provide for their children, of whom she was primary carer.

The Court of Appeal agreed and ordered that £285,000 was the minimum sum necessary to provide for the man’s ex-wife and children, but also ordered that £95,000 be repaid to him when the children turn 18 or, if in further education, finish their first degree, or in the event that his ex-wife marries a partner who can support her. More recently it was held that a £500,000 lottery win won by one party did not constitute a matrimonial asset other than as far as it had been invested into the matrimonial home and as was required to meet the parties’ needs. If you would like more information about divorce please contact Philip Dimond, Melissa Markham or John Barrow in our family department on 01622 678341.