Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Matrimonial Asset Definition:

An asset owned by one or both of two persons who are married to one another which, upon the application of one of the spouses to a court, is subject to division between them.

Related Terms: Matrimonial Debt, Matrimonial Property, Community Property, Separate Property, Marital Property

The law, by statutes in most jurisdictions, anticipates unfairness in the event of separation or divorce, by a spouse having placed assets accumulated during the marriage in his (or her) name only, and thereafter claiming that the asset is his alone.

And yet, while the alleged owner asserts that the asset is his because he is alone on title, the facts of many marriage reveals significant direct or indirect contribution by the other spouse to the asset in question.

Thus, many jurisdictions presume that all or certain specified assets, if acquired during the period of marriage, are jointly held regardless as to what title says. These statues call these assets matrimonial assets, matrimonial property, family assets or community property

They generally include pensions or pension-like assets, the family dwelling, family vehicles and whatever else the income of one or both of the spouses has paid for and which has been used for family purposes.

For example, the Matrimonial Property Act of Nova Scotia, at §4, defines matrimonial assets as follows: 

“..... the matrimonial home or homes and all other real and personal property acquired by either or both spouses before or during their marriage, with the exception of:

  • gifts, inheritances, trusts or settlements received by one spouse from a person other than the other spouse except to the extent to which they are used for the benefit of both spouses or their children;
  • an award or settlement of damages in court in favour of one spouse;
  • money paid or payable to one spouse under an insurance policy;
  • reasonable personal effects of one spouse;
  • business assets;
  • property exempted under a marriage contract or separation agreement; (and)
  • real and personal property acquired after separation unless the spouses resume cohabitation.”

Matrimonial assets are subject to adjustment by matrimonial debts.


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