How to Protect Your Assets in Divorce
If you’re getting a divorce, or ending a civil partnership in England or Wales, it’s important to know if your rights and assets - the things you’ve owned together, bought and shared, are protected.
When you’re getting a divorce, it’s not unusual for one of you to suspect the other is not providing full financial disclosure to you and the Courts. You might be worried that your former partner is actively deceiving you by hiding or concealing assets.
Each person owes a duty to the Court to make full and frank disclosure as part of financial remedy proceedings in divorce. The duty is not just at the beginning of legal proceedings but is ongoing throughout the entire divorce process.
First, you will both exchange financial statements, also known as Forms E, and financial documents. Documents can include but are not limited to:
Once you’ve exchanged financial documents, your Divorce Solicitor will review them for any unusual or irregular transactions or dealings. We have years of experience in helping divorcees with their finances, so we can quickly spot if something is not right.
If your Solicitor finds unusual transactions or if you still feel like your former partner is hiding assets, there are ways you can try to uncover the truth. You could:
1. Raise a questionnaire – After disclosing your assets, you’ll be given the opportunity to raise a questionnaire on your former partner’s disclosure. If you’re still not happy or satisfied with the response, your Divorce Solicitor can prepare a ‘schedule of deficiencies’ and serve it to your ex, setting out why the disclosure is inadequate or deficient. Sometimes this exercise is enough to flush out the hidden assets.
2. Get your ex to sign a Form of Authority - This allows you to make a request to a bank or other third party for further information about suspected assets or financial resources. This might be a tricky option as you do need your former partner to sign the form and the Court cannot compel them to sign it.
3. Make a Specific Disclosure Order – The Court will order your ex to fully disclose their assets. The Court will attach a penal notice to the Order for disclosure. A breach of the Order, for example failure to provide the disclosure, will then give the Court powers to commit your former partner to prison or issue a fine in some circumstances.
4. Third Party Orders - If documents are in possession of third parties, for example, business partners, accountants, trustees, the Court can order disclosure by the third party. This might involve bringing the third party into the proceedings.
More and more assets in high net worth cases are hidden offshore in sophisticated Trust structures. The Family Courts are now alert to this and are sceptic of offshore Trusts. The Court expects you to give fuller and franker disclosure of any Trusts like these, and will request documents showing how they are created and run.
Some people in high net worth cases are also choosing to hire private investigators or forensic accountants to discover hidden assets.
Even after you get a Financial Order, if it comes to light that your ex deliberately or mistakenly failed to disclose an asset in financial remedy proceedings, it might be possible for you to get the Financial Order set aside and have your financial claims heard again.
This can get quite complicated, so you should get expert legal advice.
We know how hard it is to divide assets in divorce, especially if you feel like your former partner is being dishonest. If you’re worried that your former partner is hiding assets away from you, we can help uncover the truth.
Fill in the form below to get in touch with one of our dedicated team members, or call our team today on: 0808 239 3465