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What happens to my inheritance if I get divorced?

Getting divorced is already an emotionally charged and challenging time; being faced with the prospect of moving home and dividing up assets accrued during the marriage can be hurtful- being faced with the prospect of dividing up assets accrued by your family separately outside of the marriage can be devastating.

But how do the Courts deal with this issue.

The issue of dividing inheritance received along with many other issues arising on divorce is a matter of the Court’s discretion and will include an assessment of what the Court considers fair in your particular situation. Since 2000, the Court’s overarching aim has been to achieve fairness based on a martial partnership of equal contributions.

Put simply, the Court would prefer you not to hand over your inheritance if you do not have to. The Court will first approach the issue applying the guiding principle that to achieve fairness, equality and an equal division of the marital assets are required but that this would only apply to assets and wealth earned during the marriage or grown throughout the marriage.

Inheritance, like gifts and wealth brought to the marriage, does not stem from the efforts of the parties during the marriage and therefore there is no starting presumption that it ought to be shared.

However, this “sharing principle” takes a backseat when the Court is considering the needs of the parties. The Court can, to achieve fairness, introduce inheritance along with any non-matrimonial assets into the marital pot to be divided to meet the parties’ needs.

The Court will want to ensure that the parties leaving the marriage have, where possible, their basic financial needs met including housing need. If this requires the Court dipping into inheritance, then the Court will do so to meet needs.

Each case turns on its own facts and therefore it is important to take legal advice at an early stage as these matters are almost impossible to generalise and will depend on the Court’s consideration of all the circumstances of the case, the welfare of any minor children and a number of different factors including parties’ ages, duration of marriage, size of marital pot, debts, income, earning capacity.

If you wish to discuss options on how to best protect your inheritance or wealth you bring to the marriage or wish to discuss how the Court may approach the issues in your case in the event of your separation, then please contact our offices on 0191 386 4843 (Durham), 01325 466221 (Darlington) 01609 766558 (Northallerton) to arrange an initial appointment with one of our family law specialists.

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