For better or for worse…In secrecy and in wealth
A quarter of warring couples are potentially risking prison by hiding financial assets from partners during a divorce according to a new study published today (22 February).
Each year around 120,000* marriages end in divorce, which equates to an incredible 30,000 people risking a prison sentence.
The research by The Co-operative Legal Services shows women are most likely to risk the wrath of a judge by hiding finances and possessions during a divorce. Four fifths of men claim to have been completely open and honest with their ex about their finances.
The study also revealed that for one in seven divorcees, revenge was their main objective - ahead of getting the kids or the house.
Half of divorcees admitted that a lack of trust in their partner was the main reason they hid cash, investments or expensive possessions. A quarter of the more devious divorcees planned their separation and said they had taken steps to keep their wealth secret.
Christina Blacklaws, Director of Family Law at The Co-operative Legal Services, said: “During a divorce, couples have a legal obligation to divulge financial information and failure to do so can ultimately lead to imprisonment for contempt of court.
“Married couples are each potentially entitled to a share of the value of any property that either or both own at the time of their divorce. This includes assets acquired before and during the marriage and after separation.
“Lawyers for either party can instruct accountants to go through the financial affairs of a husband or wife whom they suspect has deliberately undervalued their wealth but in many cases it falls to solicitors to try and draw these things out of their clients.”
In January 2013, a husband was jailed after failing to be transparent with his assets and for his ‘deliberate’ attempts to conceal his wealth**.
Lawyers for The Co-operative Legal Services said that some of the most common ways used by dishonest partners to conceal their wealth include:
- claiming cash back and then pocketing or stashing the cash in the runup to a divorce or announcing a split
- making up ficticious debts owed to relatives
- going on a spending spree with a joint credit card
- transfering large sums of money to new partners or family members
- clearing out joint bank accounts - often fraudulently. In one case, a man removed all the joint savings and burnt the money in front of his ex!
It seems it’s not only your ex that may be trying to pinch your pennies but one in five divorcees felt that their ‘trusted’ solicitor acted more in their own interests by increasing their fees unnecessarily.
Christina continued: “It’s really important that people realise there are alternatives to the time based pricing that traditionally many legal firms use.
“We know that consumers want transparent, upfront and honest legal fees and so this is exactly how we have designed all of our family law services so that our customers can access fairly priced, fixed-fee legal services that are aligned to their specific needs. This means that they know exactly what the costs are and are not worrying about an excessive bill at the end.
“This is even more important with divorce cases as couples are separating their finances and are often left worse off as a result. Knowing they are in control of their legal costs does give some certainty at what can be a very traumatic time.”
The Co-operative Legal Services offers a comprehensive range of family law services which includes divorce, child protection, mediation and financial issues.
For further information on the family law services provided by The Co-operative Legal Services visit www.co-operative.coop/legalservices or call 0844 728 0173.
* In 2010, 119,589 marriages ended in divorce while in 2011 the figure was 117,558 according to the Office for National Statistics:-http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/divorces-in-england-and-wales/2011/stb-divorces-2011.html
One Poll surveyed 800 divorcees in January 2013.
Interviews with Christina Blacklaws are available. Case studies are also available. Please contact Lindsay Colbeck on 07713 267 499 or email Lindsay.Colbeck@co-operative.coop