Once you have come to the difficult decision that your marriage is over, the next step is to ascertain how the finances will be divided between you and your ex-partner. To do this, you must first figure out what finances there are.
What is financial disclosure?
Financial disclosure is the process of exchanging information about each party’s assets, liabilities and income. This is most commonly done by each party completing a lengthy form called the Form E, in which they set out all the relevant information in respect of any assets, liabilities and income in their sole or joint names. The information must be supported by documents which evidence the figures listed in the form, for example, recent mortgage statements, pension valuations and bank statements.
In the event that court proceedings are issued, the court will require both parties to complete a Form E. Even if both parties are trying to reach an agreement outside of court, they often agree to set out their financial disclosure in the Form E on a voluntary basis, as while it may seem onerous, it is the most comprehensive way of ascertaining the overall financial picture. A shorter disclosure process can be undertaken, however, this is generally not advisable as without exchanging full and frank financial disclosure, you cannot be certain of your ex-partner’s financial position.
What happens once we have exchanged financial disclosure?
Once Form E’s have been exchanged, each party will have the opportunity to ask questions of the other party’s disclosure. If there are any valuations which the parties cannot agree on, for example, the value of the family home, the parties will look to agree a way of valuing that asset, for example, by instructing a surveyor to prepare a report, or by seeking three estate agent market appraisals and taking the mean average.
Once both parties are satisfied with each other’s disclosure and the values of all assets have been agreed, they can then look at how the assets should be divided.
What if I think my ex-partner is hiding assets?
As part of the Form E process, parties are required to provide 12 months of bank statements for each bank account held in their name. This therefore makes it difficult, albeit not impossible, for one party to hide a bank account in their name, as it is often evident from the bank statements if there are other accounts that haven’t been disclosed. One party can request the other party’s bank statements going back further than 12 months, however, there must be a good reason for this. The court will be unlikely to sanction a ‘fishing expedition’ of bank statements going back over 12 months unless it can be shown that there is a justifiable reason for seeking these statements.
If you think your ex-partner is hiding assets and sufficient evidence can be provided to the court, then the court have the power to ‘make inferences’ against the party believed to be hiding assets. This means that the court can make a finding that one party does hold those assets. They will then give the assets a value and divide the rest of the matrimonial pot between both parties, taking into account the finding that one party already holds undisclosed assets. This will often mean that party get less of the ‘known’ assets.
What if my ex-partner refuses to provide his or her financial disclosure?
If one party refuses to provide any information or documents about their financial position, the only way to force them to do so is with an order of the court. Once court proceedings are initiated, the court will make an order requiring both parties to complete their Form E’s by a certain date. It is important to note that financial remedy proceedings are private, and therefore none of your disclosure can be seen by anyone other than the court, the parties and their lawyers, and where relevant, experts involved in the case.
If you wish to discuss any of the above, our team of specialist family law solicitors are more than happy to help. Please be in contact by telephone or email at email@example.com or on 020 7431 8889.