How do I find hidden assets in a divorce?
As part of a divorce, both parties have to agree on how to divide any money, property, investments, and pensions that they own.
Most couples do manage to normally reach an agreement outside of court by sitting down together and working things out. This process works well when couples are open and honest when disclosing their financial interests.
Unfortunately, many couples do try and hide such things as savings, cars, pensions, debts, and inheritance, either before or during divorce proceedings. Everyone should remember that any attempts to transfer, hide or dispose of money or assets are likely to be penalised by the court if they are found out.
What are the red flags to look for?
The first thing to do is to look carefully at the financial disclosure "Form E" document which requires couples to give as much information as possible about bank accounts, investments, pensions, mortgages, wages, and so on, to see if everything adds up.
Red flags may be when passwords are changed for accounts or where investments have suddenly changed or you are locked out of a jointly owned or managed business.
What are the ways of finding hidden assets?
If you suspect that your spouse is trying to hide assets, it is important to alert your solicitor immediately as there are ways that a solicitor can find out if this has happened. These include applying for:
- An order for third-party disclosure
- A search order
- A freezing order
- An avoidance of disposition order
- "Add back"
What are Search Orders?
Search orders are less common and involve a complex application process, but are worth considering if you have clear evidence that your spouse is planning to destroy key documents, such as share certificates that provide evidence of their assets. This process could involve entering a property to search for and retrieve relevant documents.
What are Freezing Orders?
If you have evidence that your spouse is going to dispose of assets during the divorce process, a solicitor can apply for an interim injunction which is also known as a freezing order. This means that if the order is granted it prevents your spouse from disposing of, or dealing with assets. Ignoring this order could mean that a person could be sent to prison for contempt of court.
What is An Avoidance of Disposition Order?
This is a court order which prevents a transaction by either party during divorce proceedings from disposing of assets. This could be by gift, sale, lease charge, or otherwise in an attempt to deprive another of the assets or indeed to remove the assets from the court's jurisdiction.
A successful Avoidance of Disposition Order depends on how well your solicitor can demonstrate that the asset in question was disposed of specifically in an attempt to defeat your legitimate claim to it.
What is an "Add Back"?
This is when a court nominally “adds back” into the matrimonial pot the amount by which one party has used or spent and by doing so has reduced the matrimonial assets.
However, the court will normally only do this where it regards the spending as "reckless and wanton" expenditure. In other words, the add-back argument can be tricky and will only be applied if the financial misconduct is gross and obvious such as gambling or buying excessive gifts of luxury items.
If it is suspected that full and frank disclosure of assets is not achievable, finding hidden assets can be a complex and complicated process. This is why it is important to get expert legal advice as soon as possible so that a fair and equitable financial settlement can be achieved for both parties.
How can GloverPriest help?
If you suspect your spouse is concealing assets, you may be able to implement one of these solutions. Speak to one of our experts today for more information.
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