It can often be the case that valuable items seem to vanish during, or just prior to, divorce proceedings. Sadly, more often than not, the evidence seems to point towards one party deliberately attempting to hide the assets from the other in order to have them excluded from consideration when dividing the assets.
This poses a real difficulty in the Family Court as it is often difficult to determine whether one party has deliberately concealed the valuables or whether it is coincidence that this has occurred. Judges must decide, based on the evidence, whether an asset is simply missing or whether it has been hidden. If the latter, the judge must decide on the appropriate course of action.
A similar situation arose in a divorce case before Mr Justice Holman in the High Court last week. The details of the case have not yet been reported however, the Wife informed the Court during the proceedings that some pieces of her jewellery had disappeared from the family home. The jewellery (three rings and a bracelet), was valued at approximately £15,000.00. The Wife believed that the Husband had hidden the jewellery; he denied this and suggested that the jewellery had been lost by the Wife.
The family home was considered to be the main asset in the marriage and it was decided that the house should be sold and the proceeds divided between the parties. The Wife was to receive 80% of the proceeds.
Upon review of the evidence, Mr Justice Holman ordered that the Wife would receive an extra Â£10,000 from the proceeds of sale of the matrimonial home if the jewellery was not returned to her before the 16th December 2013. Mr Justice Holman did not specifically find the husband to be untruthful but came to the conclusion that he had concealed the assets based on his attempts, both earlier in the marriage and during the course of the proceedings, to hide money from the Wife.
Reportedly Mr Justice Holman stated ‘I am not necessarily asking you to hand [the jewellery] back to her. But, if she comes home and finds them sitting on the dressing table that’s ok.’ The Husband remained adamant that he had not hidden the jewellery and that it had been lost. Mr Justice Holman highlighted to the Husband that the Wife had searched the house thoroughly to no avail.
Through this decision, Mr Justice Holman has made it very clear that attempts to hide assets or money will not be taken lightly.
For more information on any aspect of divorce or financial settlement following divorce, do not hesitate to get in contact with us. Our award-winning team of divorce lawyers can provide the support and advice you need at this difficult time.
By Antonia Love, Lancashire Divorce Lawyer