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The Perils of Hiding Assets on Divorce

It can be tempting for parties on divorce to hide assets in order to pay a reduced financial settlement. Both parties have a duty to fully and frankly disclose their financial circumstances before any settlement is reached and this applies whether they are trying to deal with matters amicably or have made an application to court.

All assets, whether jointly held or in one party’s sole name, must be considered on divorce otherwise the resulting financial settlement may be unfair.

The court can penalise a party who has deliberately failed to disclose assets by ordering them to pay the legal costs incurred by their spouse. They may also receive a lower financial settlement and ultimately, a custodial sentence can be imposed. 

Urgent legal advice should be sought if you believe your spouse is hiding assets or attempting to dispose of them. The court has power to freeze assets to preserve them, and to add them back in where they have already been disposed of. A financial order can even be re-opened where one of the parties did not fully disclose their assets at the time the settlement was reached.

Where one party to a divorce believes that the other is hiding assets, it may be tempting for them to obtain documentation to prove the existence of those assets by searching for and obtaining confidential information belonging to the other spouse. The court is just as critical of such actions which can lead to civil or criminal penalties, an order for costs and an injunction. If documents have been taken they should be returned immediately and confirmation given that a copy has not been retained.

To avoid adding additional anxiety to what is already a stressful situation, both parties to a divorce must approach a financial settlement with honesty and openness otherwise there will be repercussions which could have considerable consequences.

Jayne Turner is a Partner in Ashfords’ Family Team in Taunton. She is a trained and experienced collaborative lawyer and a Resolution Accredited Specialist in Complex Financial Remedies and Pensions on Divorce as well as an Advanced Member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel. Jayne is described in the Legal 500 directory as "sensible, client focused and knowledgeable".

For any more information please contact Jayne on: CJ.Turner@ashfords.co.uk

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