How to Protect Your Assets in Divorce

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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.

These matrimonial assets may be possessions, money or property, and your ex-partner may look to sell or transfer assets in order to prevent you from including them in your divorce financial settlement.

Below we explain some of the Court Orders which can help to protect your assets and your home, and what to do if your spouse has already disposed of assets.

For initial advice get in touch with our Divorce Solicitors.

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Preventing a Spouse Disposing of Assets in Divorce

The Court has the power to issue a Financial Remedy Order, also known as a Divorce Financial Order. The Court can prevent a spouse from disposing of assets by issuing a:

  • Freezing Order
  • Search Order

Freezing Order

A Freezing Order is an Injunction issued by the Court which can be used to stop a spouse from disposing and dealing with certain assets, such as bank accounts, shares and property.

Freezing Orders affect assets held in the UK or offshore, but it’s worth noting that to be granted a Freezing Order, your Divorce Solicitor must satisfy a long list of criteria set out by the Court.

You can apply for a Freezing Order without your spouse knowing, but the Court will always consider whether the Freezing Order affects the spouse, or any third-parties, too harshly. However, if your spouse breaches the Freezing Order, there are severe penalties and they may be held in contempt of Court.

Search Order

A Search Order requires a spouse to provide disclosure of assets and allow someone to enter their premises in order to search for and seize assets.

Matrimonial assets such as cars, business assets, jewellery, expensive clothing and valuable art are just some of the things a spouse may want to hide or transfer when going through a divorce. A High Court Judge may grant a Search Order in these instances, but they will also take some convincing that this measure is required.

If you feel that your spouse is hiding assets or cash, then it’s best to act quickly. Contact one of our experienced Divorce Solicitors who can negotiate a Freezing or Search Order on your behalf.

Protecting Property – Sole or Joint Ownership

Sole Ownership of Property

Your marital home may in fact be registered solely in the name of your spouse. This can lead some people to think that they have no interest in that property, but that is not the case.

You’re entitled to protect your interest by registering what is called a ‘Home Right’ against the property under the Family Law Act 1973. The Home Right means your spouse cannot sell the property free of charge, and acts as a deterrent.

Joint Ownership of Property

When you own a home jointly with your spouse, it may be advisable to change this if you’re getting a divorce.

If you were to die before the divorce had been finalised, then your spouse will automatically inherit the property under what is known as Right of Survivorship. This can lead to further problems, because you may already have someone in mind whom you want to see benefit from your property after you die, such as a family member, or one of your children.

Our Divorce Solicitors can help you sever the joint ownership of a property, and guide you through what can be a difficult process.

My Spouse has Already Disposed of Assets – What Can I Do?

The Court has two main methods to counter-act any transfer or sale of your property and assets by your spouse:

  • An Avoidance of Disposition Order
  • Granting an Add-Back

Avoidance of Disposition Order

If your spouse disposes of assets before a Financial Remedy Order has been made i.e. prior to financial remedy proceedings and/or during the course of financial remedy proceedings then the Court can set aside the disposition if it is satisfied that your spouse intended to defeat your claim for financial relief and had made a reviewable disposition AND that if the disposition were to be set aside, you would be granted financial relief or a different financial relief. 

If the Court has already made a Financial Remedy Order and your spouse disposes of assets, intending to defeat your claim to those assets, and it is a reviewable disposition, then the Court may also set aside the transaction. 

Obtaining an Avoidance of Disposition Order can be difficult and is expensive. Determining whether the disposition is reviewable is complicated and it is advisable to seek specialist legal advice before making an application. Our expert Divorce Solicitors are experienced in all areas of financial remedy proceedings, including Avoidance of Disposition Orders.

Being Granted an Add-Back

An add back may be used where your spouse had recklessly or wantonly spent, dissipated or disappeared money, usually after separation (although sometimes considered where it has taken place during the marriage). If the Court does grant an add-back, the matrimonial assets will have the money added back that your spouse has used or spent.

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