Is everything split 50:50 when you get divorced?
There are lots of reasons why things you own may not be split equally, or 50:50, when you divorce

Recently, I’ve had quite a few emails, either through the ‘ask the experts’ section, or just directly, from women who assume that everything they own will be split 50:50 with their husband (or civil partner) when they divorce. It’s easy to see why you might think that, but it’s rarely the case (except in Scotland, where the divorce law is different).

How things you own are split – the principles
The main consideration, when you get divorced in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, is how much you and your husband or civil partner need to live on after the divorce or dissolution of your civil partnership.

• If you have children: their needs will come first. This means that the value of the family home may be split unequally to ensure that the parent who has the children for the majority of the time (assuming care of children isn’t split equally) has somewhere to live.

• If you don’t have children: your individual needs will be paramount. This means ensuring that you each have somewhere to live and that you can support yourselves.

In Scotland
If you get divorced in Scotland, the starting point is that property and assets (such as savings, investments, cars etc) that you acquired during your marriage is split equally. However, property and assets that you already had before you got married are rarely included. There are some exceptions, such as a property that you bought before you got married but planned to live in after you were married.

How things are split, the practice
In England and Wales, very few divorces actually go to court. Most are negotiated – either with the involvement of family lawyers or through mediation.

• As part of the negotiation, the value of different assets may be ‘offset’ against each other.

• This may be done so that property doesn’t have to be sold and/or investments and pensions don’t have to be cashed in.

SAVVY TIP: Even though different assets may be offset against each other, it’s still worth making sure they are properly valued and that you’ve taken advice about how they will be offset. I’ve seen many cases where wives have been discouraged from trying to get a percentage of the pension. Often the pension may be one of the most valuable assets. There's more in my short video on Pensions and divorce

As an example, your ex husband may decide not to make a claim against your pension, in return for being able to keep an investment property you own jointly.

SAVVY TIP: Although some investments and policies will be divided equally, that’s not the starting point during divorce. The starting point is to make sure you and your children are provided for and, once your needs have been met (assuming there’s anything left over) to divide the rest.

The importance of advice
Because money, property, pensions and investments are rarely divided 50:50 (except in Scotland, as outlined above), it’s important to take advice. If you and your ex want to reach an agreement between you, that’s fine. But I get lots of emails from women (and I’m sure there are men in a similar situation) who’ve been told by their ex that they’re not entitled to make a claim on the pension/house/investments. From the information they provide in the emails, that’s rarely the case.

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Related articles:

A survey shows pensions were only mentioned in 15% of divorces

Can you keep an inheritance out of the divorce 'pot'?

How do you work out how much a business is worth on divorce?

SAVVY HELP: Why not ask Savvywoman's panel of experts a question about your finances by clicking here? The answer will be displayed on the website but your surname will never be used.


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Posted by Mandy dated 2013-04-08 14:38:28
I am currently going through divorce and the main assets are tied up in jointly owned (but not equally) businesses, for which I worked for over 8 years. I am concerned how the value will be worked out to arrive at an asset value. They are primarily internet based businesses, which my ex husband has claimed are entirely his enterprise. My pensions are also quite valuable (nearly £300k transfer value), but I believe he would only be entitled to the proportion contributed by me during the relevant years of marriage. What figures are used to arrive at a company valuation and how would he be expected to raise money assuming that my divorce settlement is formed by the company assets..?
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2013-04-11 06:51:18
Hi Mandy, Thanks for your questions and sorry I didn't spot them until today. I'm afraid they are a bit too detailed for me to answer in a comments box. As you'll have seen from the article, valuing a business is a bit of an art rather than a science. However, I don't think your husband can claim the business is entirely his unless you a) had a very short marriage b) there are no children and/or c) there is a pre-nup or post-nuptial agreement in place. It is the case that family law courts are increasingly reluctant to divide a business if that is one partner's main source of income, because it could leave them without any income. Have you seen the business's books? Do you know how much it could be worth? If not, I'd suggest talking to your divorce lawyer about whether it is worth getting a forensic accountant involved. This can be costly but it may be worth it. You and your husband can share the forensic accountant. You might find my article entitled 'Valuing a business in divorce'
Posted by maggiemay dated 2013-04-11 17:21:59
my husband has left me after a 25years of marriage i am wondering as im unable to work due to ill health what my rights are to his works pension fund when he retires
Posted by AnneD dated 2013-06-26 05:05:29
my financial contribution including inheritance and gifts from my family has been considerably more than the financial input of my husband. We have no children. Will my husband still receive half of our investments when we divorce?
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2013-06-26 18:10:57
Hi Maggiemay, I'm so sorry - I've only just spotted your comment. I'm so sorry for the delay in replying. I was on holiday when you left a comment but did check the website (but obviously not carefully enough). That's no excuse and I should have replied earlier - apologies again. In relation to your question, you would be entitled to a share of your husband's pension at the time of divorce. You wouldn't have to wait until he retires. I'd recommend that you talk to a divorce lawyer and make sure that they have experience in dealing with pensions in divorce (which all good divorce lawyers should have). Don't be fobbed off - either by your husband, his lawyers or the pension scheme he's a member of. Be persistent as, depending on the pension scheme, it could be a significant amount of money.
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2013-06-26 18:14:01
Hi AnneD, Thanks for your question. As you'll have seen from the title of the article, things aren't necessarily divided 50:50 on divorce. The starting point is always need - namely, how much money, housing etc each person needs after divorce. If there's money left over once needs have been catered for, any remaining assets etc are divided. In some cases inheritances may be left out of the 'pot' but it does depend on what's left to divide. A session of expert legal advice may be a very good investment.
Posted by angie dated 2013-10-07 18:15:09
Hello Can you please tell me what amount will have to be in the pot left for this to be split 50;50 and at what point does this start to swing towards the mother and children ? Could you please put some figures on your text below... thank you If you have children: their needs will come first. This means that the value of the family home may be split unequally to ensure that the parent who has the children for the majority of the time (assuming care of children isn’t split equally) has somewhere to live.
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2013-10-08 05:22:24
Hi Angie, Thanks for your question. I'm afraid I can't give a definite figure as it will all depend on the needs of the husband, wife and children. The figure would depend on the area they live in and the number of children etc. A 50:50 split is more likely if the marriage has been a long one and splitting everything that way wouldn't leave either party - or the children - without enough money/housing etc.
Posted by loisg dated 2014-09-11 20:54:50
Hi. My husband and I were married 3 years. 6 Months into the marriage I found him on websites / webcams /and advertising himself to couples etc. Things were never the s as me and we've had separate rooms! The house was his and he's paid the mortgage / bills but I've brought all food,stuff for the house and always paid when we've gone out. Am I entitled to anything from the house? I am divorcing him for unreasonable behaviour because the sites etc - thanks
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2014-09-14 20:08:41
Hi Lois,
Thanks for your comment. It's hard to say exactly what you might be entitled to. In very general terms, if you haven't been married for long, you are less likely to have a claim on each other's money. If you have children, their needs come first, but if you don't have any children, the courts would look at what you'd built up during your marriage and how much each had contributed. In terms of money and assets you owned before the marriage, it may be possible - even likely - that you'd each keep what you had. But there are no completely hard and fast rules. How your husband has behaved during the marriage won't come into it, however - ie you wouldn't be awarded more because of how the marriage ended.
Posted by ANolan dated 2014-10-20 17:12:14
My husband and I have been married 25 years and our relationship has broken down. I gave up work three years ago after the birth of our youngest son , we also have a 15 yr old son. Most of our savings and our house is in joint names . A large lump of the savings are in my name for tax purposes. Our savings and property exceed two million pounds, most of this money was made from the sale of his business 8 yrs ago. Roughly what would I be entitled to?
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2014-10-21 08:31:00
Hi A,
Thanks for your question and I'm sorry to hear that your relationship has broken down. I'm afraid I couldn't give you an indication of what you might receive. It's something you'd have to talk to a solicitor who specialises in family law about. However, the court's starting point would be to make sure that your children and then you and your husband are provided for. Depending on how the children split their time or who they spend most time with, there could be implications for housing etc (traditionally children have spent most of their time with their mother, but it's certainly not always the case and some split their time 50:50 or are brought up by their father). Once your needs have been met, the court would look at dividing what's left. My tip would be to make sure you don't overlook the pension(s) that your husband may have. Incidentally, it doesn't matter whose name the assets are in or who bought them. I'm assuming that you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Posted by Sam78 dated 2014-10-24 18:05:14
I want to divorce my husband he's a doctor with a good income. Only recently I've started cleaning & child minding for friends. I didn't work most of our marriage because of our child. She is in her late 20s now but still at home. Will I be entitled to half, more than half or less than half.
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2014-10-26 08:35:57
Hi Sam,
Thanks for your question. I'm afraid that it's not possible for me to tell you the percentage of you and your husband's assets that you'd get. All I can say is that a court would look at how much each of you needs. Although this principle is quite straightforward, there's quite a lot of room for manoeuvre in terms of how particular assets are split or offset against each other. I'd suggest that you talk to a solicitor who is a member of Resolution.
Posted by Shana dated 2014-10-30 21:05:24
Hi, me and my husband of seven years are having a dispute over money. He sold his flat while we were together which left him with considerable savings, which he then decided not to tell me about until seven years down the line! It came about because he left his job one day and obviously I needed to know how much he had. So not only was I shocked at him leaving without a word, but he also had a large stash of cash I never knew existed! He does not grasp the concept that in marriage you share everything, so what I really would like to know is if we were to divorce, would I be entitled to half of everything he has in his account? Even if the account is in his name only? What would my legal rights be in my situation? We have no kids but we do share a home together on mortgage and I'm in full time employment. He is temping at the moment with hardly any interest in looking for other employment as he is sitting on all that cash! Sorry if I went on too much. Thanks
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2014-11-01 09:22:05
Hi Shana,
Thanks for your question. I'm afraid that if you got divorced you may not get 50% of the money in your husband's savings account. As I've explained in the article above, the starting point is your needs - i.e. making sure you can each afford a home. In general terms, the shorter the marriage (and especially if there are no children), the more you are likely to 'leave the marriage with what you came with'. It is a complex area and this information is only general guidance. I'd strongly recommend you talk to a family law solicitor who's a member of Resolution. I'm also assuming you're not in Scotland, as the rules are different there.
Posted by sophie dated 2014-12-21 16:44:18
I married 3 months ago and have been asking my husband to help pay the bills and his share of our mortgage. He has never had a bull or taken responsibility for anything since we got together 8 yrs ago. We have 2 children aged 3 and 5. I cut back my work when I had them and had a reserve pot which has run out hence the marriage breakdown as we argue constantly about money. I have 2 properties in my name and we have our joint home which I put 50% deposit down to secure. I am devastating the marriage is over simply because he won't help me pay for our bills but feel even more distraught that he will get 50% of my assets for the privilege of not paying. Is there anything I can do? He works but manages himself and his money so badly that he never seems to have any money and has basically lived through me. I married him as I loved him and kept believing he would change. Sadly I've realised this isn't the case.
Posted by james clarkson dated 2015-03-06 05:01:30
We bought a house 2 years ago with the man putting £130,000 into it & the woman putting £60,000 into it, we have two children. Can you tell me what the man should get in return please?
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2015-03-08 09:18:23
Hi James,
Thanks for your question. I can't give you a precise answer and any guidance would depend on whether or not you and your partner are married. If you are married it would depend on how long you've been married, whether you're in England or Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland and how old the children are. If you're not married, then it will largely come down to how the property is owned and whereabouts in the UK you live.
Posted by mrs q dated 2015-03-30 17:35:59
I own a flat with my sister. After divorce will my husband have any of it?
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2015-04-09 07:57:39
Hi Mrs Q,
Thanks for your question and sorry for the delay in replying to you. Things were very busy in the run-up to the pension changes, and I overlooked your comment. Whatever you and your husband own (including property you own jointly with someone else) can be taken into account when dividing the financial assets. If you live in Scotland the situation is slightly different in that - in general terms - only assets you buy or build up while you're married are included. I don't know how your share in the property would be valued - it's something you'd probably have to ask a solicitor about. If you've only been married for a short time and don't have children, you're more likely to leave the marriage with 'what you brought to it', in financial terms. But if it was a long marriage it's more likely that what you have is split (although not necessarily 50:50).
Posted by JULEO dated 2015-05-13 14:56:07
Sarah, pls help. In my late 50s, been married under 4 years and considering divorce. Have one child each from different relationships – none together. Accountant husband’s refusing to work, so I have to pay ALL bills. We live mortgage-free in a property where he owns 43%. Also he’s cashed most of his pension and now gets minimal amount. I took voluntary redundancy 4 years ago and currently not working as I own another property (for 15+ years) which is rented out so provides my income. Looking forward to receiving my good local authority pension soon. Could my husband claim 50% of property we live in together or the one I owned 10+ years before I met him? And could he have claim on my pension?
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2015-05-18 09:59:23
Hi Juleo,
Thanks for your question and sorry for the delay in replying. I had a lot of questions and have been struggling to reply to them all! This is for general guidance and is not independent legal advice, but in general terms, if a marriage is less than five years (and there are no children) it is viewed as a 'short marriage' by the courts. That means the court is far more likely to look at a settlement where each of you leaves with what you brought to the marriage. However, it's not a hard and fast rule. Talk to a solicitor who is a member of Resolution, which is the family lawyer's association in England and Wales (I'm assuming you live in England or Wales as there are different rules in Scotland and Northern Ireland). I wish you the best of luck.
Posted by Andrea dated 2015-05-19 18:57:08
Hi if my husband ran off with a woman but the got 20,000 from redundancy could I get some off this in my devorce for me and my children
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2015-05-19 21:40:11
Hi Andrea,
Thanks for your question. My understanding is that redundancy money isn't treated the same as assets that were built up during the marriage, but there are plenty of grey areas.

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You should always obtain independent financial advice.