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Honesty is the best policy!

There has been a case in the press recently about a divorce financial settlement overturned by the High Court after the wife discovered the husband had failed to disclose substantial parts of his assets, including shares worth ¾ million pounds in a company with a 50 million pound turnover.  The wife had accepted £1.8 million as her full and final settlement but without seeking legal advice along the way.  The couple both wanted a speedy end to the marriage.

Admittedly the figures we are dealing with here are not typical of the average divorcing couple.  But what is becoming increasingly the norm, is at least one of the spouses electing not to instruct a solicitor in order to save legal costs and also not bothering with full financial disclosure before agreeing the terms of a consent order in divorce.

This is all fine and dandy when the assets are modest and also when you trust your other half to behave decently and you think you know pretty much everything about their financial situation anyway.  But take heed of the High Court Judge, Sir Paul Coleridge, who said in the case mentioned: “With the availability of legal advice becoming scarcer and parties often having to litigate without proper legal advice, it is more than ever important that financial details are presented to the other side and the Court in a simple, clear, concise and above all, accurate way”.

This tale has a moral for both sides. For the spouse who thinks they can get away with not disclosing the full extent of their assets, obtaining a final order is not the last word because the Courts will overturn such orders where they have been made on a false basis.

For the spouse who is expecting a payout in a divorce settlement, in order to ensure that the sum on the table is fair, detailed knowledge of the payer’s finances may be necessary before you accept it.  The best way to ensure that you do have the full picture and that the court order you obtain at the end of the day is properly binding, you should seek expert legal advice from a family law specialist.  It may seem an unwelcome expense at the time but it will be worth it in the long run.

Monday, September 30th, 2013 Divorce

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