What to Do if You Suspect Your Spouse Has Hidden Assets

During a divorce or civil partnership dissolution it is necessary for couples to compile a comprehensive list of their assets – this includes property, business interests, pensions, savings, shares, investments, cars, art, antiques, jewellery and anything else of value. This process is called financial disclosure.
Inevitably sometimes one party suspects that either the other is not fully disclosing all their assets, or they are being economical with the truth as regards the value of the assets they have disclosed.
If you have suspicions
Consult a solicitor or lawyer who can advise on the best course of action in your particular circumstances. Your solicitor can analyse the financial disclosure with a view to advising whether there are further questions to ask regarding the disclosure or inconsistencies which need further clarification or follow-up. In some circumstances (for instance if there is a family business) it is advisable to consider using the services of a forensic accountant to review your former partner’s financial disclosure. They can investigate any claims of non-disclosure, help trace off shore assets and advise on the likely value of any businesses, which may be artificially deflated.
The services of a forensic account can be highly effective, however they are expensive and any likely benefit must be carefully weighed against the cost.
If you have evidence
If you discover information showing your spouse has undisclosed assets, you may expect immediate legal recourse, but unfortunately this is not always the case.
Up until 2010, a spouse in this position could take copies of any documents or information they unearthed and use it as evidence, but a ruling in the Court of Appeal reversed this position. It followed a case in which two brothers accessed material belonging to their sister’s husband on a shared computer without his permission. It was successfully argued that this was an unlawful breach of the husband’s right to privacy and confidentiality and as such the documents could not be used as evidence.
The effect of this ruling has been discussed widely in the legal community.
It means that your lawyer may not be able to read confidential documents which have been obtained without the consent of your spouse, and you may not be able to use confidential information which has been obtained in certain circumstances. However, the position is not straightforward, and there are specific circumstances under which you may be able to use this information. You should ask your solicitor for further advice on the individual circumstances of your case

So how does one go about proving the existence of a specific non-disclosed asset?
The first step is to appoint a solicitor of lawyer to act on your behalf. He or she can write to your spouse’s legal representative asking them to confirm or deny the existence of the asset in question. It is not uncommon for the asset to be revealed at this point for fear of the consequences of non-disclosure. Your solicitor can also apply for a Court Order requiring your former partner to disclose certain documents. Failure to disclose may be a contempt of Court which is a criminal offence and in the most serious of cases could carry a prison sentence.
It is also open to us to apply to the court for a search order. This allows you or your representative to enter your spouse’s premises, search for and seize documents, which may then be presented to the court.
How to prevent the disposal of assets
If you have reason to believe there is a high risk of your spouse wrongfully disposing of or hiding assets you may apply to the court for a freezing order. This acts to prevent your spouse from emptying bank accounts, selling off assets or transferring them into other people’s names, and applies to their worldwide assets.
If any assets have already been transferred, an order under section 37 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 can require they be transferred back. Any breach of these orders may result in criminal prosecution.
This article is intended as an easy to understand introduction to some aspects of divorce, free of legal jargon. However, divorce is a complex, and unfortunately sometimes non-intuitive area of law. Please contact us for more specific advice about your individual circumstances and the legal processes which apply.
Inevitably sometimes one party suspects that either the other is not fully disclosing all their assets, or they are being economical with the truth as regards the value of the assets they have disclosed.
If you have suspicions
Consult a solicitor or lawyer who can advise on the best course of action in your particular circumstances. Your solicitor can analyse the financial disclosure with a view to advising whether there are further questions to ask regarding the disclosure or inconsistencies which need further clarification or follow-up. In some circumstances (for instance if there is a family business) it is advisable to consider using the services of a forensic accountant to review your former partner’s financial disclosure. They can investigate any claims of non-disclosure, help trace off shore assets and advise on the likely value of any businesses, which may be artificially deflated.
The services of a forensic account can be highly effective, however they are expensive and any likely benefit must be carefully weighed against the cost.
If you have evidence
If you discover information showing your spouse has undisclosed assets, you may expect immediate legal recourse, but unfortunately this is not always the case.
Up until 2010, a spouse in this position could take copies of any documents or information they unearthed and use it as evidence, but a ruling in the Court of Appeal reversed this position. It followed a case in which two brothers accessed material belonging to their sister’s husband on a shared computer without his permission. It was successfully argued that this was an unlawful breach of the husband’s right to privacy and confidentiality and as such the documents could not be used as evidence.
The effect of this ruling has been discussed widely in the legal community.
It means that your lawyer may not be able to read confidential documents which have been obtained without the consent of your spouse, and you may not be able to use confidential information which has been obtained in certain circumstances. However, the position is not straightforward, and there are specific circumstances under which you may be able to use this information. You should ask your solicitor for further advice on the individual circumstances of your case
So how does one go about proving the existence of a specific non-disclosed asset?
The first step is to appoint a solicitor of lawyer to act on your behalf. He or she can write to your spouse’s legal representative asking them to confirm or deny the existence of the asset in question. It is not uncommon for the asset to be revealed at this point for fear of the consequences of non-disclosure. Your solicitor can also apply for a Court Order requiring your former partner to disclose certain documents. Failure to disclose may be a contempt of Court which is a criminal offence and in the most serious of cases could carry a prison sentence.
It is also open to us to apply to the court for a search order. This allows you or your representative to enter your spouse’s premises, search for and seize documents, which may then be presented to the court.
How to prevent the disposal of assets
If you have reason to believe there is a high risk of your spouse wrongfully disposing of or hiding assets you may apply to the court for a freezing order. This acts to prevent your spouse from emptying bank accounts, selling off assets or transferring them into other people’s names, and applies to their worldwide assets.
If any assets have already been transferred, an order under section 37 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 can require they be transferred back. Any breach of these orders may result in criminal prosecution.
This article is intended as an easy to understand introduction to some aspects of divorce, free of legal jargon. However, divorce is a complex, and unfortunately sometimes non-intuitive area of law. Please contact us for more specific advice about your individual circumstances and the legal processes which apply.
During a divorce or civil partnership dissolution it is necessary for couples to compile a comprehensive list of their assets – this includes property, business interests, pensions, savings, shares, investments, cars, art, antiques, jewellery and anything else of value. This process is called financial disclosure.
Inevitably sometimes one party suspects that either the other is not fully disclosing all their assets, or they are being economical with the truth as regards the value of the assets they have disclosed.
If you have suspicions
Consult a solicitor or lawyer who can advise on the best course of action in your particular circumstances. Your solicitor can analyse the financial disclosure with a view to advising whether there are further questions to ask regarding the disclosure or inconsistencies which need further clarification or follow-up. In some circumstances (for instance if there is a family business) it is advisable to consider using the services of a forensic accountant to review your former partner’s financial disclosure. They can investigate any claims of non-disclosure, help trace off shore assets and advise on the likely value of any businesses, which may be artificially deflated.
The services of a forensic account can be highly effective, however they are expensive and any likely benefit must be carefully weighed against the cost.
If you have evidence
If you discover information showing your spouse has undisclosed assets, you may expect immediate legal recourse, but unfortunately this is not always the case.
Up until 2010, a spouse in this position could take copies of any documents or information they unearthed and use it as evidence, but a ruling in the Court of Appeal reversed this position. It followed a case in which two brothers accessed material belonging to their sister’s husband on a shared computer without his permission. It was successfully argued that this was an unlawful breach of the husband’s right to privacy and confidentiality and as such the documents could not be used as evidence.
The effect of this ruling has been discussed widely in the legal community.
It means that your lawyer may not be able to read confidential documents which have been obtained without the consent of your spouse, and you may not be able to use confidential information which has been obtained in certain circumstances. However, the position is not straightforward, and there are specific circumstances under which you may be able to use this information. You should ask your solicitor for further advice on the individual circumstances of your case
So how does one go about proving the existence of a specific non-disclosed asset?
The first step is to appoint a solicitor of lawyer to act on your behalf. He or she can write to your spouse’s legal representative asking them to confirm or deny the existence of the asset in question. It is not uncommon for the asset to be revealed at this point for fear of the consequences of non-disclosure. Your solicitor can also apply for a Court Order requiring your former partner to disclose certain documents. Failure to disclose may be a contempt of Court which is a criminal offence and in the most serious of cases could carry a prison sentence.
It is also open to us to apply to the court for a search order. This allows you or your representative to enter your spouse’s premises, search for and seize documents, which may then be presented to the court.
How to prevent the disposal of assets
If you have reason to believe there is a high risk of your spouse wrongfully disposing of or hiding assets you may apply to the court for a freezing order. This acts to prevent your spouse from emptying bank accounts, selling off assets or transferring them into other people’s names, and applies to their worldwide assets.
If any assets have already been transferred, an order under section 37 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 can require they be transferred back. Any breach of these orders may result in criminal prosecution.
This article is intended as an easy to understand introduction to some aspects of divorce, free of legal jargon. However, divorce is a complex, and unfortunately sometimes non-intuitive area of law. Please contact us for more specific advice about your individual circumstances and the legal processes which apply.
During a divorce or civil partnership dissolution it is necessary for couples to compile a comprehensive list of their assets – this includes property, business interests, pensions, savings, shares, investments, cars, art, antiques, jewellery and anything else of value. This process is called financial disclosure.
Inevitably sometimes one party suspects that either the other is not fully disclosing all their assets, or they are being economical with the truth as regards the value of the assets they have disclosed.
If you have suspicions
Consult a solicitor or lawyer who can advise on the best course of action in your particular circumstances. Your solicitor can analyse the financial disclosure with a view to advising whether there are further questions to ask regarding the disclosure or inconsistencies which need further clarification or follow-up. In some circumstances (for instance if there is a family business) it is advisable to consider using the services of a forensic accountant to review your former partner’s financial disclosure. They can investigate any claims of non-disclosure, help trace off shore assets and advise on the likely value of any businesses, which may be artificially deflated.
The services of a forensic account can be highly effective, however they are expensive and any likely benefit must be carefully weighed against the cost.
If you have evidence
If you discover information showing your spouse has undisclosed assets, you may expect immediate legal recourse, but unfortunately this is not always the case.
Up until 2010, a spouse in this position could take copies of any documents or information they unearthed and use it as evidence, but a ruling in the Court of Appeal reversed this position. It followed a case in which two brothers accessed material belonging to their sister’s husband on a shared computer without his permission. It was successfully argued that this was an unlawful breach of the husband’s right to privacy and confidentiality and as such the documents could not be used as evidence.
The effect of this ruling has been discussed widely in the legal community.
It means that your lawyer may not be able to read confidential documents which have been obtained without the consent of your spouse, and you may not be able to use confidential information which has been obtained in certain circumstances. However, the position is not straightforward, and there are specific circumstances under which you may be able to use this information. You should ask your solicitor for further advice on the individual circumstances of your case
So how does one go about proving the existence of a specific non-disclosed asset?
The first step is to appoint a solicitor of lawyer to act on your behalf. He or she can write to your spouse’s legal representative asking them to confirm or deny the existence of the asset in question. It is not uncommon for the asset to be revealed at this point for fear of the consequences of non-disclosure. Your solicitor can also apply for a Court Order requiring your former partner to disclose certain documents. Failure to disclose may be a contempt of Court which is a criminal offence and in the most serious of cases could carry a prison sentence.
It is also open to us to apply to the court for a search order. This allows you or your representative to enter your spouse’s premises, search for and seize documents, which may then be presented to the court.
How to prevent the disposal of assets
If you have reason to believe there is a high risk of your spouse wrongfully disposing of or hiding assets you may apply to the court for a freezing order. This acts to prevent your spouse from emptying bank accounts, selling off assets or transferring them into other people’s names, and applies to their worldwide assets.
If any assets have already been transferred, an order under section 37 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 can require they be transferred back. Any breach of these orders may result in criminal prosecution.
This article is intended as an easy to understand introduction to some aspects of divorce, free of legal jargon. However, divorce is a complex, and unfortunately sometimes non-intuitive area of law. Please contact us for more specific advice about your individual circumstances and the legal processes which apply.
During a divorce or civil partnership dissolution it is necessary for couples to compile a comprehensive list of their assets – this includes property, business interests, pensions, savings, shares, investments, cars, art, antiques, jewellery and anything else of value. This process is called financial disclosure.
Inevitably sometimes one party suspects that either the other is not fully disclosing all their assets, or they are being economical with the truth as regards the value of the assets they have disclosed.
If you have suspicions
Consult a solicitor or lawyer who can advise on the best course of action in your particular circumstances. Your solicitor can analyse the financial disclosure with a view to advising whether there are further questions to ask regarding the disclosure or inconsistencies which need further clarification or follow-up. In some circumstances (for instance if there is a family business) it is advisable to consider using the services of a forensic accountant to review your former partner’s financial disclosure. They can investigate any claims of non-disclosure, help trace off shore assets and advise on the likely value of any businesses, which may be artificially deflated.
The services of a forensic account can be highly effective, however they are expensive and any likely benefit must be carefully weighed against the cost.
If you have evidence
If you discover information showing your spouse has undisclosed assets, you may expect immediate legal recourse, but unfortunately this is not always the case.
Up until 2010, a spouse in this position could take copies of any documents or information they unearthed and use it as evidence, but a ruling in the Court of Appeal reversed this position. It followed a case in which two brothers accessed material belonging to their sister’s husband on a shared computer without his permission. It was successfully argued that this was an unlawful breach of the husband’s right to privacy and confidentiality and as such the documents could not be used as evidence.
The effect of this ruling has been discussed widely in the legal community.
It means that your lawyer may not be able to read confidential documents which have been obtained without the consent of your spouse, and you may not be able to use confidential information which has been obtained in certain circumstances. However, the position is not straightforward, and there are specific circumstances under which you may be able to use this information. You should ask your solicitor for further advice on the individual circumstances of your case
So how does one go about proving the existence of a specific non-disclosed asset?
The first step is to appoint a solicitor of lawyer to act on your behalf. He or she can write to your spouse’s legal representative asking them to confirm or deny the existence of the asset in question. It is not uncommon for the asset to be revealed at this point for fear of the consequences of non-disclosure. Your solicitor can also apply for a Court Order requiring your former partner to disclose certain documents. Failure to disclose may be a contempt of Court which is a criminal offence and in the most serious of cases could carry a prison sentence.
It is also open to us to apply to the court for a search order. This allows you or your representative to enter your spouse’s premises, search for and seize documents, which may then be presented to the court.
How to prevent the disposal of assets
If you have reason to believe there is a high risk of your spouse wrongfully disposing of or hiding assets you may apply to the court for a freezing order. This acts to prevent your spouse from emptying bank accounts, selling off assets or transferring them into other people’s names, and applies to their worldwide assets.
If any assets have already been transferred, an order under section 37 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 can require they be transferred back. Any breach of these orders may result in criminal prosecution.
This article is intended as an easy to understand introduction to some aspects of divorce, free of legal jargon. However, divorce is a complex, and unfortunately sometimes non-intuitive area of law. Please contact us for more specific advice about your individual circumstances and the legal processes which apply.

Contact Jane McDonagh
jane.mcdonagh@smab.co.uk