More than half (53%) of people think that others would hide the true extent of their savings and assets in anticipation of a divorce. Even more (63%) think people would do this during a divorce.
Tellingly, when we asked our sample if they themselves would hide assets from a partner if they thought they would not be caught, nearly one-third of people said that they would.
When relationships break down, people can be so intent on securing their own financial future, or punishing their ex, that they do not play fair financially.
The cases that make the headlines tend to be individuals or families with millions to play with, but our data highlights that this sort of behavior is very much mainstream. While the press is often keen to treat men as the villain of the piece when it comes to financial disclosure, interestingly the survey data reflects that hiding assets is something both men and women are equally likely to consider.
What’s the legal position?
In a divorce settlement, you are obliged to reveal your full financial position: everything from income, business assets, pension, savings and ISAs through to debts and credit card bills.
Many people are not aware that obscuring the true extent of wealth or assets during a divorce can be treated as ‘contempt of Court’ and can result in stringent fines or imprisonment for a maximum of 2 years albeit- in reality the latter is rarely used in the civil Courts. The other penalty a Court can impose for non-disclosure is an order to pay your ex-partner’s legal costs, which could run to tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds. Additionally, there are proposals currently being considered that would see those failing to comply with financial orders imposed by the Court being banned from driving or travelling abroad.
Although the weight of the law is behind you if you feel that your ex-partner is not playing fair, any good solicitor will advise that it is usually better for all parties if a settlement can be reached without going to Court. Taking a conciliatory approach will often achieve a quicker, significantly cheaper and usually less painful outcome.
Many couples resolve financial issues using mediation, although we would always advise taking legal advice pre-mediation and while ongoing, just to ensure you are clear on your legal position and don’t waste money mediating an unenforceable or prejudicial agreement.
If you would like to get in touch with Jolene Hutchison, Partner and Head of Family and Divorce, please contact her on 01494 478603 or email firstname.lastname@example.org