When negotiating your divorce settlement, you must both disclose all of your assets. If one person tries to hide their assets in an attempt to keep them out of the ‘marriage pot’, it could amount to fraud.
Disclosure of assets during divorce
When you get a divorce, you have a duty to your spouse and the courts to be open and honest about your finances. This must be a ‘full and frank disclosure’, meaning you must lay bare all the assets you own both within the UK and abroad. This is to ensure that a fair and reasonable divorce settlement is achieved. Without full financial disclosure, one spouse may be unfairly denied a share of certain assets.
If you are using a mediator or solicitor to negotiate your financial settlement, then you will need to detail your assets in a document called ‘Form E’. This information will be exchanged with your ex’s solicitor and vice versa, allowing each side to consider the financial position of the other. Your solicitor can then advise what constitutes a fair and reasonable divorce settlement, and negotiations can begin from there.
Hiding assets during divorce
However, there are times when one person decides to hide assets during the divorce process. The motivation behind this is usually to prevent the assets from being included in the ‘marriage pot’, meaning they will not be included in the divorce settlement. Often people do this because they feel resentful that their ex will receive a share of their assets.
Typically, an individual will attempt to hide assets that he/she brought to the relationship or built up during the course of the marriage. This might include, for example, pensions, inheritance, property purchased before the marriage, business interests, shares and investments.
Yet you are not permitted to keep your finances a secret. The reality is that when you marry, your husband or wife has a right to a share of your assets, regardless of how and when you acquired them. Unless there is a prenuptial agreement in place stating otherwise, this right must be realised if your marriage comes to an end.
What can you do?
If you suspect that your ex is hiding assets in an attempt to exclude them from the divorce settlement, you need to speak to a family law solicitor without delay. This is because while hiding assets during divorce is illegal, you need to tread very carefully if you are going to recover what is rightfully yours. If you gather evidence unlawfully, then you yourself may be committing an offence or breaching your ex’s human rights.
A solicitor will be able to advise what action you can take while remaining within the confines of the law. One option is to have your solicitor request that your ex makes full financial disclosure of their assets. If this does not take place, or you believe your ex is still deceiving you, then your solicitor can apply for a court order that demands financial disclosure. If your ex does not comply with the terms of this order, then further legal action can be taken.
What if a financial settlement has already been agreed?
Even if your divorce settlement has already been agreed and made into a legally binding court order, then you may still have options open to you. For instance, if evidence comes to light that shows your ex was hiding assets at the time you were negotiating your financial settlement, then you can go to court and ask a judge to overturn the decision. This may result in you receiving more than you had originally been awarded.
Speak to a lawyer
To find out more about how you can protect your assets, please do not hesitate to contact our family law solicitors. For an informal chat or to book a consultation, call us on 0333 4564 444, or for international calls, dial +44 1992 505 406.