How will I get a fair divorce settlement if my ex hides their assets?

A common worry that those divorcing have is that their ex will hide assets to prevent them receiving a fair divorce settlement. Thankfully most people who get divorced are honest about their financial circumstances, but what if they are not? Here, Partner Fiona Wood discusses what you can do to if you suspect your spouse is hiding assets throughout financial settlements.

Before a financial settlement is negotiated it is usual for both spouses to give full financial disclosure, confirming all their assets, company interests, pensions, incomes and liabilities. Documentation needs to be provided to support what they state their financial circumstances are, including bank statements for all accounts for at least the last 12 months. If assets have not been disclosed it is often possible to prove this from the documents that have been provided, such as regular transfers from one bank account to another account that has not been disclosed.

Sometimes people give assets to friends or family, shortly before they divorce, in an attempt to exclude them from the divorce settlement. If an asset has been transferred to another person at an undervalue within a period of three years before the divorce, the onus is on the person who did this to prove that it was a legitimate transfer that was not done to reduce their ex’s financial claims. If they cannot prove this, a judge can overturn the transfer, or they can add the amount that has been lost back into the matrimonial pot.

If you are genuinely concerned that your ex is about to give away an asset or transfer it out of the country, you can apply to court for a freezing order. You need good evidence that this is about to happen, to successfully obtain a freezing order, but it is an order that can be made in court proceedings.

Sometimes one spouse has complicated finances, often of an international nature, and their ex is concerned that they will not provide a true picture of their assets. In this scenario you can do some research yourself, looking at Companies House and at the Land Registry in the UK, both of which are accessible to the public, and their equivalents in some other countries. I had a case where one spouse failed to disclose a property that he purchased in Florida, but as there is a public land registry in Florida, we were able to show that they owned this property.

There are also professionals who specialise in assets tracing, on an international scale, who use all legal means available to track down assets owned in the UK and across the world. Even if they cannot locate specific assets, they may be able to provide enough information to enable you to convince a judge that there are hidden assets and that this should be taken into account within the divorce settlement.

If you are concerned about your ex hiding assets to reduce your financial claims on divorce, there are several ways in which you can investigate this and there are legal remedies available to you if it transpires that they have done this or they are about to do this.

Understandably Judges are very unimpressed by those who do try to hide assets. There are likely to be cost orders made against them. Also, as Judges have a broad discretion when it comes to deciding what a fair financial settlement is, so the judge may order that they receive a less generous settlement than they would have received if they had not tried to hide assets.

If you have already obtained a financial settlement, but it comes to light that your ex failed to disclose some of their assets whilst you were negotiating that settlement, the financial settlement can be reopened. There are significant consequences for those who try to hide assets. Don’t do it!

If you are affected by any of the issues raised here, please get in touch today. We are here to help.

  • Fiona Wood