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Hiding and finding the money in a divorce

14 Sep

Hiding money is as costly as it is finding and it all comes out of the same point, here is what to do if you are in this situation.

Bitcoin money

We all know divorce is big business these days. On the back of the pandemic more people than ever before are doing it. Normally this results in financial discussions on the worth of cars, houses and in some instances pets. 

But the pandemic has thrown other items into the mix – namely designer handbags, shoes, watches and cryptocurrency. The value of these items has soared, in some cases second-hand Birkin’s and Chanel handbags are worth more than the original price, and the same is often true of Rolexes, Breitlings and Omegas. In fact, top brand watches have risen in value by 10% during the pandemic and these are not cheap to buy. The rub in all of this comes when you don’t declare it, and partners try to hide the true value from each other.

If you have some of these items, you really do need to be transparent regarding the value. It is your legal responsibility and a core principle of a divorce done well that you be honest with each other.

And if you are with someone who you think is hiding these items, you need to raise this with the other party without being confrontational, politely ask them if they are aware the value has risen. A divorce done well is not about point-scoring, it's about being as amicable as possible to ensure a quick, and cost effective divorce that allows you both to move on. 

The risks of playing these games and not declaring the value are immense, four out of ten marriage splits in England and Wales have led to financial rows having to be settled in court. And once you start hiding the facts, the scars left can be felt throughout the whole process. One barrister recently talked about a couple who were so enmeshed in hiding their money they ended up arguing over the tiniest of things such as who would get the fake roses – which had no value at all. This couple spent thousands arguing about this because the bonds of trust had been broken.

Aliya Ali-Afzal knows all about the cost of financial infidelity, having written a book about it – ‘Would I lie to you.’  Aliya talks about how common it is for financial pressures to cause untold damage to relationships, add to this the damage caused by a divorce and you are looking at a long-lasting legacy of acrimony.

It’s important to say that we’re not necessarily talking about high-end divorces either. The biggest protagonists engaging in this sort of behaviour are middle-class professionals – in one case, a husband tried to hide his money in bikes (£65,000 worth).

But what do you do if your partner is hell-bent on hiding their resources? There are certain steps you can take:

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1. Asking your solicitor for an order for non-party disclosure

This order enables you to obtain documents from banks and organisations such as the DVLA and HMRC. However, the court will only provide said order if the documents in question are likely to support your case and disclosure is thought to be necessary.

2. Considering a search order

Search orders are rare and can involve a complex application process but may be worth considering if you have evidence your spouse is planning to destroy significant documents, which provide evidence of his or her assets.

If your situation meets the criteria, you will need to appoint a specialist Supervising Solicitor to handle the search. This would then involve your solicitor entering the property to search for and retrieve the relevant documents.

 3. Applying for a freezing order 

A freezing order is a court order that prevents an individual from disposing of or frittering away your assets. These could include moving or investing money held in a bank account, property, shares or investments. The court will only agree to a freezing order in very specific cases, so this would need specialist handling from an experienced lawyer.

 4. Requesting an Avoidance of Disposition Order 

 If a partner has already moved an asset, it is usually too late for a freezing order. However, it may be worth considering applying to the court for a Section 37 Avoidance of Disposition Order. In order to get one, it depends on you demonstrating that the asset in question was disposed of specifically in an attempt to defeat you.


 5. Seeking ‘add back’

An alternative is to consider something that is known as ‘add back’. If a partner has spent £80,000 in what could be defined as a ‘wanton or reckless’ manner, that £80,000 can be ‘added back’ into the central pot and considered as part of the overall settlement. Examples of wanton or reckless spending include buying new partners excessive gifts, taking extravagant holidays, etc.

As you can see, these steps can be time c costly and are a sure-fire way to put a strain on the whole process. 

Of course, another way to help you prevent getting embroiled in financial ping-pong is employing a divorce coach. But in signing up to Fresh Start you are well-aware of this and the benefits.

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