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How are assets divided in a shorter marriage?

Couples are arguing in a poignant mood in the divorce process while the lawyer

When it comes to divorce, the duration of a couple’s marriage can significantly influence the financial settlements they may receive. However, there are no fixed rules or formulas dictating how assets should be divided. While the court generally starts with an equal split, they will also consider various factors that might warrant a deviation from a 50/50 division.

These factors include non-matrimonial assets, such as inherited or pre-marital assets. Additionally, the court assesses whether an equal division would adequately meet each party’s needs. To guide their decision-making process, the court refers to Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which outlines specific considerations. The welfare of any children from the marriage takes precedence, and other factors like the couple’s ages and standard of living during the marriage are also taken into account.

One of the crucial factors examined in the Section 25 checklist is the length of the marriage. To determine this, the time spent living together before the marriage is added to the period following the wedding. There are no definitive definitions for “long marriages” or “short marriages,” but marriages lasting over 10 years are typically considered long, while those lasting five years or less are regarded as short.

Spouses in long marriages tend to have more intertwined finances, with their assets being perceived as more “mingled.” Consequently, the court is more likely to favour an equal division of assets in such cases.

For couples in short marriages without children and with both spouses earning incomes, the court may conclude that it is fair to deviate from a strict 50/50 division and instead aim to restore each party’s pre-marital financial position. This is especially true if the couple maintained separate finances throughout their marriage. Moreover, divorcing spouses in short marriages have a higher chance of “ring-fencing” assets or properties they brought into the marriage, protecting them from being included in the assets to be divided. In cases where the marriage was short and there are no young children involved, the court heavily favours a “clean break,” aiming to sever financial ties between the divorcing individuals. Consequently, regular maintenance payments from one party to the other are unlikely to be ordered, although not entirely impossible.

It is important to remember that the court always considers the individual needs of each party involved. Even in cases of short marriages without children, if an unequal division would prevent the other person from meeting their housing and income needs, the court is unlikely to be persuaded against an equal division of assets.

Understanding the nuances surrounding marriage length and its impact on divorce settlements is crucial. For personalised guidance on divorce and family law matters, contact our team of experts at Haris Law Solicitors. We are dedicated to providing tailored advice and comprehensive support throughout the legal process.

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