The term equal distribution of assets in the financial proceedings of a divorce is easy to understand. Does this principle apply however when the parties have made an unequal financial contributions to the marriage?
Prior to the case of White v White, if, for example a man makes more of a financial contribution to the family this would have been recognised in his favour when it comes to dividing the assets. His financial contribution could not be matched by that of the homemaker.
The House of Lords however recognised that financial contribution is only one of the factors to consider when deciding on the distribution of assets after a divorce. We have him to thank for the removal of prejudice to other contributions. At this point we are discussing the marital assets. What happens with pre-acquired wealth and inheritance?
“What’s yours is yours and mine is mine… or is it”
People assume that what they bring to the marriage is theirs to keep after a divorce but is this really the case? The simple answer to the question is that we do not know. The court has a very wide discretion to look at all of the circumstances of each case and the law is continually developing in this area. In summary however the courts will look to the source of the wealth, and the nature of the asset. For example, if the wealth is inheritance from one’s person’s parent then that person generally has a good chance of protecting it. However, the discretion still applies and the timing of the inheritance will be very important as will the housing needs of each party.
Ward LJ in the case of Robson v Robson  stated that the source and nature are the two elements to consider and that they may be good reasons to depart from equality.
In essence, nothing is conclusive and we have to look at each situation individually.
The interesting point, that still remains true, is that cases based on need and particularly housing needs are always a priority over and above protecting pre-acquired assets. Unless there is a surplus to go around, your pre-acquired assets may well fall into the pot!