Divorce Case Study- I don

13 May 2020

Unquestionably, the breakdown of a marriage can be a difficult and stressful time in a person’s life.     In this article, we will look at some of the concerns that people separating may have about how they approach and deal with the financial side of divorce. 

It is not at all uncommon for one spouse to have little to no knowledge of the full landscape of the marital finances and this lack of knowledge can leave them feeling vulnerable at an already difficult time.

Let’s take Julie’s story as an example. 

Julie has been married to Simon for 40 years. They raised two children together who have both now flown the nest. Julie had a career in nursing early in the marriage but had given this up when the children came along to care for them.  Simon was primarily the main breadwinner and throughout the marriage had established a successful computer company. Julie took little to do with the family finances and left the accounting and payment of household expenses to Simon. They lived a very comfortable life with frequent holidays and had bought a second rental property as an investment. 

Life was good, and so Julie was shocked when Simon told her he was leaving her.  She went to a solicitor and very quickly realised upon discussing the process of separation and divorce that as Simon had been primarily in control of the family finances for such a long period of time, she had very little knowledge as to what the family’s full financial circumstances were.  Where does she even begin?

When a marriage breaks downs, this imbalance in knowledge and information regarding the full financial picture can often leave one party, in this instance Julie, feeling particularly vulnerable.  She may have no clue about where to start in obtaining information on financial assets such as the marital bank accounts, the value of the business, details of any investments or perhaps even property they may have.  She may be anxious that her husband will use her lack of knowledge to his advantage and make efforts to hide and conceal assets so they are not taken into account when negotiating a financial settlement. 

The Duty to Disclose

When divorce proceedings are issued, each party has a duty to provide full and frank disclosure of their finances throughout these proceedings. 

Solicitors regularly use the terms “disclosure” or “discovery” to refer to financial documentation (normally bank statements, payslips,  tax returns, company accounts, pension valuations etc) that each party is required to gather up and exchange with one another so that they both have a full picture of all of the assets.  This duty to provide financial disclosure continues throughout the course of proceedings. If financial disclosure is not provided by one spouse, this can be highlighted to the Court which can make Orders to compel the spouse to provide any outstanding documentation. If a spouse fails to engage meaningfully in the exchange of discovery, the Court can ultimately draw an adverse inference from this behaviour. 

When financial disclosure has been exchanged, there is an opportunity to ask questions about the documentation provided or raise queries if it is believed that the information is incomplete or has not been fully disclosed.  If any queries raised are not answered satisfactorily, again, the concerns can be dealt with by the Court.  The Court will effectively oversee the entire process in order to ensure that the obligation to provide disclosure is complied with.

It is only once the full financial picture is available that negotiations can take place to resolve financial matters to reach a settlement that is fair to all parties.

Ultimately, if you are worried that your spouse will not engage meaningfully in trying to negotiate a division of marital assets upon divorce, or if you are in any way concerned that they may be hiding or transferring assets to keep them out of your reach, it is important that you obtain legal advice from an experienced solicitor who specialises in this area.

At Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors, we are strategic litigators and negotiators with the necessary acumen to assist you in circumstances where disclosure has not been forthcoming and where assets are being hidden.  We can provide you with comprehensive and practical legal advice on your financial position, bespoke to your specific needs.

Should you require advice and assistance in relation to any aspect of divorce or separation, please contact Claire Edgar on cedgar@fhanna.co.uk or call our office on 028 9024 3901