Divorce and Hidden Assets
Hidden assets – what will happen if someone hides their assets during a divorce?
In dealing with financial matters in a divorce, the Court will require both parties to make full and frank disclosure of their assets. When one party fails to advise the other of the full extent of their assets or tries to hide details, they could face serious penalties.
During a divorce, it is important to reach an agreement over how assets will be split. This should be put into an order of the Court so that it is binding on you both in the future. Without order, it may be open to your former spouse to come back to you at any stage and make a financial claim.
The usual way of disclosing assets prior to making an agreement or taking the matter to Court is by completing Form E. This is a lengthy form that will also include details of children, your situation, and any potential outgoings as well as in-depth information about all property and finances. Evidence will also need to be included, such as bank statements and investment account balances.
This is far from advisable and will undermine any potential settlement discussions and offers made. If it is found, after the event, that assets were hidden then a party may be in contempt of Court and the whole settlement revisited. Attempts that might be made to hide assets include transferring them to third parties to hold, putting property into a company or trust, undervaluing business interests or other assets or providing false paperwork in respect of debts or invoices. Transactions that take place within three years of the start of divorce proceedings are assumed to have been made to frustrate a financial claim and the party who moved the assets beyond reach will have to show that they did not do this to protect them from their spouse.
Misleading or fraudulent statements constitute perjury, which is taken very seriously by the Court.
If you believe that your spouse is attempting to hide assets, it may be possible to ask the Court for a freezing order, preventing them from being moved. If they have already been moved, then the Court may make an avoidance of disposition order or simply take the value of the asset into account when splitting the finances.
The Court also has the power to make a search order to try and uncover hidden assets as well as an order for disclosure of documents.
When assets have been hidden in divorce
The penalties for hiding assets in a divorce can be substantial. The Court may give the guilty party a lower sum than they might otherwise have received and may also require them to pay the legal costs of the other side.
The Court can make an order splitting assets on the basis of what it believes the true position to be. Where assets come to light after an order has been made, the Court has the power to reopen the case and set aside a previous order, making a new one in light of the hidden assets.
Hiding assets is fraud, which is a criminal offence and in the most severe cases, punishable by imprisonment.