Her House, His Pension? The Division of Assets Among (Ex-) Couples and the Role of Policy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite increasing interest in household assets and debts, little is known about the way these are distributed and controlled within couples. Our understanding of these issues is important in social policy not least because some areas of policy (e.g. social security means-tests) assume that all couples, whether married/civil partnered or not, share assets equally, whereas other areas of policy, such as the law around intestacy or separation/divorce, make very different assumptions about married/civil partnered couples compared with cohabiting couples. But is there a difference between these couples or not? And are the assumptions made about each type of couple accurate? Our research suggests that the division of assets within couples is complex with formal, legal ownership of assets (housing, pensions, savings) and debts not always matching participants’ ‘perceptions’ of who owns them. And while there does seem to be a difference between cohabiting and married couples, there is also variation within these couples as other factors also influence the division of assets.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-80
JournalSocial Policy and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012