Failing to Disclose Assets Can Bite Back in Divorce
In a case illustrating the importance of candour regarding financial circumstances in divorce proceedings, a husband who failed to disclose the true extent of his wealth to family judges was subsequently ordered to pay his ex-wife a seven-figure lump sum, despite challenging the decision.
The couple married in 1995 and separated in 2016. They had three children who remained financially dependent on them. After their acrimonious separation, the judge considered that, if possible, it was ‘imperative’ for there to be a complete clean break between the parties. The husband had refused to dissolve the marriage by means of a Get, a religious requirement in certain sections of the Jewish community.
The judge found that the case had become ‘far more complex than it need have been, largely due to the failures of the husband to provide adequate disclosure and his lack of adherence to court orders’.
The husband was ordered to pay the wife a lump sum of £1.4 million, with the Family Court providing that, if he failed to pay all or any part of the lump sum by the required date, interest would accrue. He was also required to pay £22,000 a year in maintenance to the wife until he both satisfied the debt and granted her a Get.
An order was made under Section 10A of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 prohibiting him from applying for a decree absolute until a declaration had been filed by the parties that they had taken such steps as were required to dissolve the marriage by means of a Get.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the husband’s challenge to those orders and rejected his plea that the judge had erred in failing to quantify the extent of his financial resources. The judge was entitled to find that such an assessment had been rendered impossible by the husband’s lack of cooperation.
The Court found that the judge had undertaken a sufficient determination of the extent of the husband’s resources given the deficiencies in the evidence caused by the husband. The judge was entitled to conclude that there were sufficient resources both to meet the wife’s needs at the level of the proposed award and to meet the husband’s needs.