What is Matrimonial Property?
There is a legal presumption that anything acquired by spouses during the marriage is joint (matrimonial) property. This includes household goods, business interests, cars, savings, shares, jewellery, books, a tax refund, life policies, CDs – pretty much anything can be matrimonial property including pension rights. Even an award of damages to one spouse can be matrimonial property depending on the circumstances. However, anything acquired by way of gift or inheritance isn’t joint property.
On separation, spouses can’t just take items from the house without agreement of the other, and they can be prevented from doing so by court order. It can therefore be important to agree who can take what and to record such an agreement.
Anything spouses owned before the marriage remains their property, although pensions are treated differently. They are valued according to a formula based on the date of the marriage and its duration, and excludes the value built up prior to the marriage.
Date Of Separation
Matrimonial property is valued as at the date when spouses stopped living together. This is called “the relevant date”.) Obviously spouses need to agree exactly when they separated. This isn’t always as straightforward as it might sound. It’s easier to establish a date of separation, if one spouse physically moves out and then lives elsewhere. However, it’s possible to be separated even while living together under the same roof. This is called constructive separation. This is where couples live entirely separate lives while still living in the matrimonial home. This can however be difficult to prove as it has to be shown that a couple did not sleep together, did not socialise with each other, ate separately and so on. The other difficulty can be to establish when a couple actually stopped being partners and when they began to live separate lives.
What Does The Matrimonial Property Consist Of?
Spouses need to work out exactly property they had in common. In the case of house which is owned by one or both spouses, it’s usually most important to get this valued. A house which is in the sole name of one spouse can still be matrimonial property if it was bought during the marriage or even before, if it was specifically intended to be the family home. dentifying all the assets owned jointly or individually by a couple at the separation date including the house, furnishings, a car, pensions, savings and investments and any outstanding liabilities (mortgage, car finance, personal loans, credit card debts etc) in existence on the date of separation.
Property and other assets acquired after the agreed date of separation by either spouse is not matrimonial property.
Valuation of Matrimonial Property
Matrimonial property is to be valued as at the date of separation. However, there is an exception in the case where property is to be transferred from one spouse to the other. In that case, parties can agree a date themselves. If they cannot agree, then the property will be valued as at the date of the court order transferring the property.
Pensions are also valued at the date of separation and, as already stated, are valued according to the statutory formula referred to above.
Sharing of Value of Matrimonial Property
The law says that the value of matrimonial property is to be shared fairly and in the absence of special circumstances, ‘fairly’ means equally.
Special circumstances can include a previous agreement between the parties e.g. to keep the property separate; matrimonial property acquired with non-matrimonial funds; reduction in value of matrimonial property caused e.g. by one spouse’s gambling or drug addiction etc.; matrimonial property used say as a business.
Contact our Family Law Solicitors Glasgow, Scotland for Property Advice
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