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How to split assets on divorce

One of the big issues in divorce is the issue of splitting assets and getting a fair settlement. It can be very confusing whether you should get a share of your spouse’s pension for example, have a greater share of the proceeds from the family home or keep all the joint savings. What are you ‘entitled’ to, what would be ‘fair’ and what would a judge say if asked to decide on these matters?  These are all factors a family lawyer will consider when advising you.

For many couples who have been married for a long time there are several assets to be considered and how each will be treated will depend on your needs now and in the future. There are options like pension sharing, equity transfer, splitting the proceeds of sale, before you know it you could be so confused you don’t know whether you are coming or going.

Setting priorities when splitting assets

The starting point must be an understanding of your priorities – of course you can’t always have what you want but an understanding of your financial needs is an important consideration for your lawyer.

Someone in their 50s and 60s might have retirement needs on their mind whilst for a young mother for example, housing needs are going to be the absolute priority.  This will determine how the assets are split. The young mother for example will be more likely to take her share, whatever that may be, as equity in the house rather than as a pension share.

How valuable are your assets?

Before agreeing to this kind of settlement however it is essential to get to the real value of all of the assets of both parties. In the past there has been a huge tendency to underestimate the value of a pension and maybe forget the value of a house must be offset against any outstanding mortgage commitment.

Getting to the true value can be tricky. It is important to remember that you are not always comparing like with like – money that is tied up in a property isn’t the same as cash in the bank. Cash isn’t the same as an investment (which might rise or fall in value). And pensions, whilst they can often be a very valuable asset aren’t readily available and accessing them may come with strings attached.

The thing to remember is that you shouldn’t focus too much on each asset individually, you need to look at the overall picture – the sum total of the marital assets. When splitting the assets between the parties the division needs to be fair. This can be quite a difficult concept to get your head around if you don’t have the benefit of someone who has experience in looking at how particular assets may be offset against each other. It may be in a lot of cases that equalising the pension after a long marriage is absolutely right, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we will equalise what happens to the property as well. It is really important to think about the overall picture – not just each individual component.

If you are in this position you will need to obtain valuations for your assets – but do speak to a specialist family lawyer first as the devil is in the detail, especially when it comes to pensions valuations.

Kate Butler
Family lawyer Northampton

Blog Author - Kate Butler

Kate ButlerKate Butler

Kate is a Northamptonshire-based divorce and family lawyer with Woolley & Co, Solicitors.

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