When negotiating financial settlements, parties will typically exchange financial disclosure such as bank statements and information regarding pensions. Both parties have a duty not to mislead the court and to provide full and frank disclosure of all material facts, documents and information relevant to the case.
Failing to provide full and frank disclosure
If a husband fails to disclose his true financial position in divorce proceedings then he is facing two main risks:
1. If after a financial order has been made it is discovered that the husband has failed to provide full financial disclosure, then the wife can apply to have that order set aside and the court would be asked to reconsider the case and make a new order taking into account the new information regarding the true financial position.
2. The court can draw adverse inferences and calculate the value of the hidden funds to make sure that the husband is not in a better financial position due to the lack of disclosure.
Divorce can be stressful enough without the worry of one party hiding their assets. Many wives are concerned that their husbands are hiding substantial assets to prevent them being considered in the financial settlement. Husbands should take note that there are ways to uncover hidden assets through the legal system.
If a wife believes that her husband has failed to disclose all his assets then she can apply through the courts for a search order, provided that she has evidence that a specific asset has not been disclosed (e.g bank account, shares, property). Please note that general suspicions are not enough.
A search order will give the wife or her representative permission to enter premises (such as husband’s workplace, home of his family members), search through documents, computers, smart phones and seize the documents. If this search reveals that the husband has hidden assets then the court may make costs orders against him or even vary the financial settlement in the wife’s favour.
The applicant must be able to satisfy the court that there is a high risk that the husband has or will wrongfully dispose of an asset (s) and objective, material evidence must be presented to the court.
A freezing order will stop the husband from selling or transferring the asset and it can also cover overseas assets and future assets such as pensions. If the husband breaches this order then he will be criminally prosecuted.
Consequences of non-disclosure
There are severe consequences for those who fail to provide full and frank disclosure, such as an order being set aside and being liable for cost orders. In extreme cases of non-disclosure a party can be held in contempt of court; in Young v Young  All ER (D) 91 (Jan) the husband was sent to prison for 6 months for contempt of court where he failed to comply with an order to provide further financial disclosure.
If you believe and have proof that your husband is disposing / hiding assets then contact a solicitor at Expatriate Law who will be able to advise you on the level of evidence that the courts require and take the necessary action.