Getting the Financial Facts on Divorce
Occasionally one party will seek to thwart the other parties application for financial provision by hiding assets or sources of income.
It is central to financial resolution on divorce that each party candidly discloses their financial position – for example bank statements, accounts, wage slips and so on. This is known as the duty of "full and frank disclosure", which is an onging obligation. Disclosure is usually achieved by agreement (voluntary exchange) or via signed statements within court proceedings (exhibiting key documents). Failure to candidly disclose all assets and income can in extreme circumstances justify the setting aside of any Order made pursuant to this and result in the wrong doer being penalised by cost orders.
Sometimes this may not provide enough information. For example:-
- Where the initial documents (or other information) suggest there are additional undisclosed resources or where there is other reasonable evidence of other resources.
- Where information may be required from third parties (new co-habitees or reluctant business associates).
- Where there are other assets which may require up to date valuations.
The court has a range of powers to enable it to access more information and documents which in appropriate cases will include:-
- Requiring either party to reply to specified questions or to produce documents.
- Requiring third parties to attend at court to produce documents and to answer questions.
- To direct the valuation of assets.
The courts disapprove of “self help” or pilfering documents or material from the other party. Courts do not condone and may penalise such activity. Extreme caution is required.
Similarly the courts take a serious view of concealment and if they think an asset has been hidden or undervalued there can be adverse consequences. Including the risk of orders being set aside or costs orders made against the offending party.