There are a number of factors a court will take into account when deciding how the family assets should be divided. In recent years the starting point and often the end point where the needs of dependent children are not a factor has been equal division of the matrimonial assets. This has in turn give rise to an approach that seeks to ring fence non-matrimonial assets such as pre-acquired and inherited assets.
In the recent case of Y v Y  EWHC (Fam), Baron J refers to the guidance given in Robson v Robson and Jones v Jones in regards to deciding how to treat inherited wealth. The parties were married for 26 years and had five children together. Prior to the marriage, the husband had inherited a family estate worth £35.8m. At the time of the divorce the assets were worth £26.8m of which the wife sought £11.2m. Baron J ordered that the wife receive £8.4m.
This provided the wife with 32% of the assets following the guidance of Ward LJ and Hughes LJ in Robson v Robson. She also referred to Jones v Jones where the Court of Appeal identified the matrimonial and non-matrimonial assets! Divided the matrimonial assets equally and the non-matrimonial assets were retained by the husband.
The Court of Appeal tested the result against the overall division of assets. With regard to the award that she ordered the wife to receive, Baron J made a comment that the wife receiving a 32.5% share met the wife’s needs and encompassed any rights she had as to sharing of assets.
Parents should be wary about bringing the court in to resolve contact disputes where it is possible for them to resolve the matter themselves with a little give and take. The courts now take a much more interventionist and proactive approach and will look into safeguarding issues such as referrals to the police, allegations about potential abuse of the children and concerns such as the use of alcohol and illegal substances.
In a number of recent cases I have been involved with, the family judge, instead of ordering a report from CAFCASS (the body that prepares social reports for the court) have instead ordered reports from social services. In one case this led to an interim order for child arrangements transferring care from the mother to the father. It is also now common for the court to order hair strand tests for use of substances.