Where financial proceedings are in place, each party has a duty to fully and frankly disclose their financial positions on a document that is known as Form E. No such duty is imposed on individuals who attempt to reach an agreement without court proceedings, although parties are required to complete a short form to confirm their financial position upon sending the agreed financial Order to the court for it to be approved.
Spouses are often concerned that their partner will hide assets on divorce so that they do not form part of the ‘pot’ to be divided, and will ask whether they are allowed to look at personal documents, such as bank statements, to find out what assets their partner has.
In short, the answer is no and if a person does access personal information or documents which belong to their spouse, it may be a breach of confidentiality and potentially a breach of criminal law.
A difficulty arises when a party believes that their spouse is withholding information. They may even have easy access to documents which would prove the existence of another asset but cannot provide the information to their solicitor because it would amount to a breach of confidence.
So what are the options when a person believes that their spouse is being dishonest about their financial position? In addition to raising questions in relation to that person’s financial disclosure within the court proceedings, the court can make the following orders:
- An order that the spouse provides information about the location of relevant property or assets, for example the location of a vehicle;
- An order for inspection of property, for example the inspection of a computer or mobile telephone which potentially contains relevant information;
- An order for a third party to provide relevant information e.g. for the spouse’s bank to disclose bank account statements;
- An order to search the spouse’s premises or office;
- An order that if the spouse does not comply with a previous order to disclose certain information or documents, they will be prevented from participating in the proceedings.
If you would like to find out more about locating assets on divorce, please contact Karen Pritchard or any member of our Family Team on 01279 755777.