How to Find Out What Assets Your Former Partner Has in Divorce
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.
Duty to Disclose in Divorce
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:
- Bank statements
- Pensions statements
- Business accounts
- Anything else that could contribute to your matrimonial assets
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.
Discovering Hidden Assets
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.
What If My Former Partner still isn’t Honest?
If your ex still fails to provide full financial disclosure, this may be considered as litigation misconduct and result in a Costs Order being made against them.
The Court may also draw ‘adverse inferences’. This means that the Court will assume that your ex does own a particular asset and infer the value of it so that it can be included in the matrimonial pot on your former partner’s side. So you will get a larger share of the remaining assets to balance out the scales.
If it becomes clear that your spouse disposed of an asset as a way of defeating your financial claim, for example by transferring an asset to a family member, the Court has powers to undo the transaction adding the asset back to the matrimonial pot, even if the value of the asset has been spent.
I acted for the wife in a leading High Court case on litigation misconduct [OG v AG  EWFC 52] where both parties spent over £1 million in litigation costs, which High Court Judge, Mostyn J, said was as a result of “the abysmal, and let there be no doubt dishonest, presentation” of the husband.
The husband had to pay his wife £278,020, which represented 45% of the wife’s total costs. This is just one example where dishonesty about your assets can lead to serious financial consequences.
What if I Find Hidden Assets After Getting a Financial Order?
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.
For initial legal advice call our Family Law and Divorce Solicitors
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