Posted by Clizia Motterle, Solicitor
When financial settlements go wrong
There’s a lot to be said about agreeing a financial settlement on divorce, as well as avoiding lengthy and expensive Court proceedings. Just look at the recent case of Mr David Mann. A former millionaire who made his fortune in the mining industry, Mann was left homeless and with £5 in his bank account after a 17-year legal battle with his former wife.
Mr and Mrs Mann separated in 1997. They were unable to agree a financial settlement, which resulted in their case being brought before the Court. In 1999, Mrs Mann was awarded £2 million. Having only received £1.5 million, she brought enforcement proceedings seeking an order forcing Mr Mann to pay for the rest. Claiming that Mr Mann had hidden assets, Mrs Mann asked that he was found in contempt of Court, and committed to prison as a result. At the end of last month, the Family Division of the High Court found that Mr Mann had not hidden any assets, and that he had been left destitute and reliant on the charity of friends.
In another recent example, an ex-wife was awarded 90% of the wealth in a divorce case.
A former businesswoman who gave up her career and became a ‘conventional housewife’ was awarded the whole of the fortune she formerly shared with her software tycoon ex-husband. Jane Morris split from Peter Morris in 2013. A divorce court heard that the couple had a “high standard of living”, but their extravagance – which continued unabated following their separation – had reduced their fortune by several millions of pounds. London’s Appeal Court ruled that, due to their profligacy, they only had enough money left to meet the core housing and day-to-day needs of Mrs Morris and the children. Mrs Morris was awarded all of the couple’s £560,000 wealth, leaving her husband with just £66,000. In a fresh blow to the software tycoon, his ex-wife is trying to have him jailed for failing to keep up with maintenance payments.
The breakdown of a relationship is a very emotional time and it can be easy for a party to get fixated on what they feel the outcome of the financial settlement should be. The positions can become even more entrenched when one of the spouses believes that the other has been hiding assets, especially in situations when the family’s finances have been managed by him or her unilaterally during the marriage.
One thing that can help to diffuse a volatile situation is involving a solicitor early on, by explaining to each party what a fair and reasonable outcome would be. When full details of each party’s financial position have been exchanged, we can consider the ‘matrimonial pot’ and advise you on how a Judge would be likely to split it. Most couples agree on a similar outcome to what a Court would have ordered, which saves a considerable amount of time, stress, and money.
If you are concerned that your spouse might be hiding assets, it’s a good idea to seek the advice of a solicitor. In certain urgent situations, we can help you secure a Court Order preventing your spouse from hiding and/or dissipating assets. If you think that the assets have already been hidden, there’s a lot that can be revealed by a careful analysis of bank statements and financial documents. Get in touch for more information.
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