Investigation of assets

It is a fundamental principle when negotiating a financial settlement upon the breakdown of marriage or cohabitation, that each person must disclose full details of their financial position to the other.

Sometimes, one party deliberately conceals or misrepresents the value of his/her assets. In such cases, the courts have wide powers to assist in investigating the other person’s finances in order to ascertain their real worth.

Such persons may be ordered to provide extensive documentation. Alternatively, third parties such as bank representatives, new spouses, employers etc., can be ordered to come to court with relevant information and documentation.

The court will also decide what assets need to be valued. Assets such as houses, pension funds and businesses may have to be valued by independent valuers. In such cases the Court will determine whether such valuations should be obtained from jointly instructed valuers or whether the parties may instruct their own separate valuers. The court may appoint chartered surveyors, forensic accountants or Independent Financial Advisers as needed.

If there is a danger that assets may be dissipated or removed from the jurisdiction an application can be made for a “freezing” order or where assets have already been disposed of for an “unscrambling” order. Freezing orders can extend to assets held overseas and in exceptional circumstances foreign courts can be requested to assist by making a “mirror order” freezing assets within their jurisdiction in support of the English proceedings.

It is important at all times to consider what level of investigation is required in each case bearing in mind the need to keep costs proportionate to the amount of money involved and to weigh the likely benefits of any court action against its cost.