Don’t go “Russian” to hide your assets
You may have seen recent headlines about the world’s largest divorce case taking place in London, where the son of a Russian Billionaire oligarch found himself on the wrong end of a Judge’s order requiring him to pay a huge sum of money to his mother because he had helped his father hide monies in an attempt to avoid having to share his wealth with her. For once, this was a case which was not just of interest to family lawyers.
Any lawyer dealing with the family finances on a divorce will say that before starting to decide how the assets are shared, everyone involved needs to know exactly what there is. We family lawyers refer to “disclosure” as the essential starting point is for each party to make full and frank disclosure of every aspect of his or her finances – and that is not just stating the numbers, but also providing documents to prove what each asset or resource is worth.
Avoid the temptation to hide assets
However, there are often cases where one person claims to be responsible for creating the family’s wealth and does not want to share all that wealth with his or her spouse on divorce, so starts trying to move or hide assets. The Law has been aware of this for decades and has a variety of tools to employ to tackle the problem.
If you are getting divorced and you think your spouse is hiding assets, the Court can order him or her to answer very probing questions and produce audit trails to help you follow the money.
If you think your spouse is going to try and hide assets to put them out of your reach, the Court can make ‘Freezing orders’ so that the monies do not disappear.
If you think your spouse has already tried to hide assets by passing them on to someone else, (as was the case with this oligarch), the Court can effectively cancel the transaction after the event and order the monies to be refunded.
It takes patience and hard work – and as the Akhmedov case demonstrated, it can be expensive – but if it is proved that someone has not been open with his or her disclosure or has hidden assets or tried to put them out of the reach of the Court, the legal costs incurred in finding the assets will almost inevitably all fall upon the person at fault.
We will be using this case to strengthen the advice that we already give to our clients that it is foolish to try and be clever by hiding assets or trying to put them out of reach of an estranged spouse and also, to reassure those of our clients who feel that their spouse may be about to do something underhand, that the Law can come to their aid to ensure a fair settlement, based on a full appreciation of all the assets and resources that the couple have accumulated during their marriage.
Chris Bowen is our Family Law Solicitor. Find out more about Chris and get in touch here.