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When Divorcing Do You Keep Property Owned Before Marriage?

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If you worked hard to buy a property before you met your husband, wife, or civil partner then it isn’t surprising that if you are separating or divorcing you want to keep any property owned before your marriage and not share it as part of the divorce financial settlement.

With the rise in later-life marriages and second marriages, many people already owned substantial property and investments before their weddings so rightly want to ask their family law solicitors if, on divorce, they will keep property owned before marriage. Our specialist divorce lawyers can help you with your divorce financial settlement and answer all your questions.

Online and London Family Law Solicitors

For family law legal advice call the expert London family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form .

Pre-marriage asset claims

In some countries, a husband or wife doesn’t have a financial claim in divorce proceedings against assets bought by their husband or wife before their marriage. That isn’t the case in England or Wales. The English court has wide discretion to make financial court orders that are fair and meet both spouses’ needs. Sometimes it is hard to be both fair and ringfence pre-marriage bought property whilst also meeting the spouses’ reasonable needs from the available family assets.

Prenuptial agreements and pre-marriage property

Family law solicitors say the best way to protect pre-marriage acquired property is to sign a prenuptial agreement. If you are an international family with connections to more than one country it is sensible to look at where any divorce proceedings could be commenced to give you the best chance of the prenuptial agreement being upheld and you keeping your pre-marriage-owned assets.

If you need help with an English prenuptial agreement or advice on an overseas prenuptial agreement and mirror agreement (where a couple has ties to the UK) then call our specialist family law solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

Getting expert help with your prenuptial agreement means you are more likely to be able to retain pre-marriage-owned assets because a specialist family solicitor can help make sure your prenuptial agreement is as watertight as possible by ensuring the agreement is signed at least 28 days before the marriage with both parties taking independent legal advice and freely entering into the agreement.

Postnuptial agreements and pre-marriage property

If you did not get around to signing a prenuptial agreement before your marriage, or the terms need to be reviewed, then you have the option of signing an after-marriage or postnuptial agreement. This is just like a prenuptial agreement but signed after your wedding.

Is pre-marriage property classed as a family asset?

Courts can class assets as ‘’family assets’’ (also referred to as ‘’marital assets’’) or non-family or non-marital assets. If an asset is said to be a family asset, then the court will start from the premise that the value of the asset should be shared equally between husband and wife. The court can move away from that premise if, for example, the marriage was short and without children and so make an unequal overall divorce financial settlement giving the husband or wife a greater share of the total family assets and wealth.

If an asset is classed as a non-family asset, the court will only take it into account in the divorce financial court proceedings if it is necessary to do so because the value of the available family assets will not meet the husband and wife’s reasonable needs.

It is therefore important to check to see if you can argue a pre-marriage bought asset is a non-family asset in situations where you have other assets that can be used to achieve a divorce financial settlement. Even if an asset is deemed to be a family asset, you can argue that your pre-marriage financial contribution must be taken into account in the overall divorce financial settlement.

Buying a family home before your marriage

If you buy a family home before your marriage you may think your spouse has no claims on it because it is a pre-marriage-bought property that is owned in your sole name. That isn’t the case. You have less chance of arguing that a family home is non-family wealth than other assets, such as shares in a family business or investments or cryptocurrency.

If a family home is owned in your sole name, your spouse can still bring a financial claim and ask the court in divorce financial settlement court proceedings to sell or transfer the house. The spouse can also try to stop you from selling or mortgaging your property by registering a matrimonial homes rights notice with the land registry to warn potential purchasers or mortgage companies of their claim. The notice will last until the end of the divorce proceedings (unless extended) or until the court makes a financial court order or your spouse withdraws the notice or the land registry decides the notice should be removed ( for example, because the notice has been placed on an investment property rather than a family home).

Reaching a divorce financial settlement where there is pre-marriage-owned property

Our family law solicitors can help you reach a divorce financial settlement through:

  • Supporting you through direct discussions
  • Family solicitor negotiations and roundtable meetings
  • Family mediation support
  • Family arbitration representation
  • Divorce financial settlement court proceedings

Our focus is to help you reach a resolution as quickly as possible that is fair to you taking into account the source of your wealth and the existence of any pre-marriage-owned property.

Online and London Family Law Solicitors

For family law legal advice call the expert London family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form .

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