Lawyer Calls On Tougher Sanctions For Cash-hiding Hubbies
'Cheats Charter' ruling must be challenged
The Law Of... cash hiding spouses
A six year old divorce ruling has enabled spouses to hide money from their partners during divorce proceedings. Now, a lawyer is calling for a challenge to that precedent as women's lack of knowledge of the family finances means they repeatedly fail to get their fair share.
In the case of Imerman v Tchenguiz 2010, the then 44-year old Mrs Imerman was seeking a £100million divorce settlement from her 53-year old husband, Vivian. Mr Imerman shared an office with his wife's brothers Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz who downloaded thousands of pages of documents from his personal computer before she issued divorce proceedings. The brothers were concerned that Mr Imerman would try and hide assets from his wife. But the Court of Appeal ruled that secretly obtained private documents could not be used as evidence in divorce proceedings.
The case has left matrimonial finance professionals with very few options when it comes to advising clients on how to try and uncover hidden assets. And one family lawyer claims the case has prompted a rise in the number of divorce cases where the client suspects that money has been hidden away, but can't find it.Head of Family Law
, John Pratley
from Simpson Millar says:"Historically, divorce lawyers were able to advise their clients to investigate whether their partner might have hidden funds or assets. But the Imerman case has essentially given spouses a green light to hide savings and fortunes in a way that will cost the other party thousands of pounds to uncover. Currently, the rights of confidence trumps the rights of a spouse to review the private documents of their partner to try and uncover hidden assets. Open your partner's computer and, as it stands, you could be in breach of confidence, The Computer Misuse Act 1990 and The Data Protection Act 1988. Many professionals feel this is unfair and that it has spurred on a culture of calculated financial cheating."
Knowledge is power, says John, and he urges married couples to make sure they both know exactly where all the money is stored. Sadly, he is finding very few women do."I have not handled a single divorce case in 2016 where the woman fully understood the joint finances and knew exactly where all the family's savings, assets and pensions were held. As a result, in some cases, I'm quite sure their husbands have been able to hide away significant amounts of money which, legally, should be shared. But as it stands, I can't do much to help them find it.""Since Imerman, I have seen more cases where there have been suspicions of non-disclosure but where, in the end, one party has walked away with less than their fair share of the matrimonial assets because they simply didn't have the necessary proof. A judge can only rule based on the evidence provided, and this is now incredibly hard to produce. It is a sad state of affairs; we need a fairer precedent to replace the Imerman ruling, fast."
One of the major issues is frozen pension funds and other pots of gold which are not active at the time of the divorce.
John says: "Typically, we can only easily trace bank accounts and pension pots which are actively receiving regular deposits. But it is not uncommon for people to have dormant pension funds and other savings accounts that haven't been accessed for a long time. If one party doesn't know about it, it is very easy for the other not to disclose details of such accounts and walk away with all of it. Making disclosure orders is a slow and costly process, and current sanctions for non-disclosure are woefully inadequate. We need tougher penalties for people who hide money from their spouse."