Divorce - I want to protect my wealth and assets

If you are a high net worth individual facing marital breakdown, it is natural to wonder about the financial cost that it could have. The English courts are known for their generosity towards the financially weaker party, making it all the more important to have specialist legal representation from top divorce lawyers.

The English courts view marriage as a partnership and will investigate the share of assets built up during the course of the marriage. The court can also look at assets earned before the marriage, to meet a spouse’s needs. Unlike in many countries, the court can also examine assets held through corporate entities, in trusts, and by family members.

The wide discretion that the English court has means that it is vital to get the best representation possible. You will need to meet your spouse’s claim with strong arguments about the value, liquidity, and origins of your assets as well as countering their proposed needs and entitlements.

As a top family law firm, Vardags can help you get the best possible result from your financial proceedings. Our combination of elite lawyers and in-house financial forensics team offer unrivalled legal advice focused on protecting your assets.

We offer a free consultation to qualifying individuals. Please call our confidential enquiry line on 020 7404 9390 or email us. Lines are staffed 24 hours.

How can Vardags help?

Spouses having inflated ideas about the value of assets is not uncommon in high value divorces, especially where parties have had a high-spending lifestyle.

This false perception of reality can prove costly for both parties, if not kept in check. Where this is the case, full disclosure will be vital in demonstrating that there are no hidden assets while reassuring your spouse that everything has been done transparently. Equally important will be obtaining thorough valuations.

As top family lawyers, Vardags are experienced in dealing with valuation in complex divorce cases. Vardags know which questions will yield a realistic valuation. Combining family law knowledge with corporate experience, supported by our own in-house forensic accountancy team, we have well established links with expert valuers for almost everything, including businesses, properties or even art collections.

When reports are prepared we will ensure that the expert is asked the right questions, for example analysing the method which they employ in business valuation or raising key questions about discounting or liquidity. By providing full disclosure while ensuring the valuations before the courts are as accurate as possible, we will help achieve an outcome which reflects the reality of your financial situation.

In a high net-worth divorce case, a party can start spending recklessly for a number of reasons. Sometimes, they want their wealth dissipated into easily movable, hard to find property; on other occasions the profligacy is designed with the goal of securing more maintenance by inflating their “needs case” which the court will look at when dividing the assets. Sometimes they simply have a new partner who they are showering with gifts. As each of these goes against the intentions of the court, a top divorce lawyer can help you.

Freezing orders in family law ensure a wealthy party cannot dissipate their assets in this way. This is a form of injunction which restricts a party from spending above their reasonable needs. If they breach it, they can be fined or jailed. Add back in can be used in family law with the aim of covering other types of reckless spending. Where a party has deliberately engaged in wasteful spending, the court can add that amount back into their side of the balance sheet, effectively meaning it is taken wholly out of their share. We will use court orders to ensure the disclosure of your spouse’s historic financial statements.

Through thorough forensic analysis, we can demonstrate just how their spending has varied, highlighting the discrepancies in spending over time. We will then present this evidence, undermining their case. Vardags are experienced at obtaining freezing orders as well as successfully running add-back arguments. Through these means, we can protect your case from your partner’s uncontrollable spending.

Custody and access - more properly called “Child Arrangements” - can be emotionally fraught litigation, especially where one party is threatening the other with the prospect of denying them time with the child. The court will always look at child centric outcomes, with the welfare of the child always being paramount. The starting point will always be that the child should spend time with both parents, except in very unusual circumstances.

As leading family lawyers, Vardags have significant experience in negotiating child disputes as well as finding solutions that work for everyone involved.

International relocation with a child, against the wishes of the other parent, will require permission from the court, gained by issuing a relocation application. Once again, the court must be satisfied that such a move is in the interest of the child, including considering the amount of contact with the non-resident parent. As international family lawyers, Vardags are experienced in representing parents in such concerns, coming up with creative solutions that suit all involved. If your partner has or is threatening relocation without the permission of the court, this can be international child abduction.

As top family lawyers, Vardags can move swiftly in such cases, including getting passport seizure orders or preventing them from leaving the country. If they have already left, with no planned return, international family law can ensure the child’s return.

As an entrepreneur, investor, or business owner it is natural that you would be concerned about the impact your divorce will have on business activities. As well as the personal toll, a poorly managed divorce may result in your spouse restricting what transactions you can enter into or attacking the value held within your business.

In the course of proceedings, maintaining the financial status quo is required as well as not doing anything that can be seen as dissipating assets. That should not, however, restrict you from making legitimate investments, as divorce should not be seen as a blanket ban on moving capital. Likewise, spouses can often apply for the extraction of cash reserves held in a business, arguing that they should be used for their claim rather than being retained for future investment.

Throughout proceedings, presenting business affairs in a transparent manner will be vital in avoiding attracting suspicion or appearing in a bad light. Our in-house corporate expertise, allied with our legal acumen, will help you protect your business activities. We will help you reassure your spouse that transactions are legitimate, whilst ensuring any settlement is truly in tune with the needs of your business activities. For those involved in a family company, where a spouse might be a shareholder or a director, we can also assist. Often parties worry that their spouse might make things difficult, harming trade or the long-term interests of the firm. We can advise on managing difficult situations like this in the best way, including when the intervention of the court might be necessary or how the court can help.

As the court has wide powers when making financial awards, it is vital that you set out the proper values of your assets so you can define your spouse's entitlement.

When the court divides assets in family cases, it looks at all the property over which you have an interest. Where this property is not in your legal name, the court may still invade it if you have a beneficial interest or it can be demonstrated that these assets are still under your control. It is not uncommon for allegations from spouses that gifts or trusts made by the other should fall in the matrimonial pot.

Often this is justified, as some use such structures for the purpose of hiding their true wealth. In many cases, however, these suggestions are unfounded so a demonstration that these trusts or gifts are legitimate will be crucial.

Where a party believes that the other has deliberately alienated wealth with the aim of frustrating their claim, by making spurious gifts or settling assets into trusts, they can apply for the setting aside of that transaction. If the court is convinced that a transfer was made with the intention of frustrating a marital claim, it can, under section 37 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, reverse this transaction.

Vardags will help you set out the history of these dispositions alongside showing them in a transparent way. Whether the intention was providing a benefit for your children, a charity or any other purpose, we will help you protect that settlement. Using our experience in high value claims, which spans all varieties of trust structures, we will marshal the facts, ensuring the gifts or transfers you have made are not invaded by the courts.

London is known as the divorce capital of the world, partially because it is famous for awarding financially weaker parties big payouts. Often people will apply for divorce proceedings in England with the aim of maximising their claim, even if this is not justified. Jurisdiction, in cases of divorce, is governed by a complex web of law, involving multiple cross-border elements. Generally, the divorce will only be heard in England if you, or your spouse, has been resident or domiciled in England.

If there is more than one European country in which you are eligible for divorce, the “correct” jurisdiction will be determined by where the proceedings are started first. If the alternative jurisdiction is a non-European country, the court will consider which country is the most suitable, considering where the assets are located as well as the previous lifestyles of the parties. Jurisdiction disputes can result in complex court proceedings before the financial remedies procedure even starts.

Often it will require a detailed examination of how the parties lived over a long period of time. Vardags are very experienced in such disputes. If you fear that your spouse is doing or might do this, it is vital that you react quickly. Time is of the essence for jurisdictional disputes: Vardags, an international family law firm, can help you make sure your case is fought in the most appropriate jurisdiction.

If you fear violence or suffer from it, the court will protect you. For victims of domestic abuse (be it physical, verbal or emotional harm) the court can make non-molestation orders or occupation orders, each giving you comprehensive legal protection.

Non-molestation orders (non-mols) are designed with the aim of protecting you from harassment. Normally, they will prevent your ex-partner from harassing you or threatening you with violence. Sometimes they will bar them from contacting you directly or from going near you.

An occupation order, often obtained in tandem with a non-molestation order, will help secure you in your family home. The order can secure your rights to live in a property (even if you do not own it) as well as preventing its owner from returning there. Alternatively, a family home can be divided in two through such an order, with each party having their own secure space.

Non-mols are backed by criminal law. Breaking one is a criminal offence, so your partner can be arrested immediately if they break its terms, even if they have committed no other crime. Your local police will be notified that the order is in place so they can help protect you if it is broken. Vardags are sadly familiar with supporting people in these frightening circumstances.

If you fear domestic violence, we can help you get these orders, alongside advising you on protecting yourself. We will advise you on the appropriate medical or psychological evidence which should be recorded in court while building up evidence in your case. As well as court orders, we can put you in contact with providers of specialist security so that you can have peace of mind in your home.

If you feel at immediate risk of domestic violence, please contact the police straight away.

Though uncommon, false allegations of domestic violence can be extremely distressing. As leading family lawyers, Vardags can defend such claims while putting forward your case. Where false allegations are made before the court, the consequences can be very serious. Under an occupation or non-molestation order you could be removed from your home or arrested by the police.

Such orders can also have a significant impact on your professional life or limit the time you spend with your children after separation. Vardags are experienced at dealing with such claims. We will ensure that the correct version of events comes before the courts, preventing false allegations from damaging your life or reputation.

Vardags' in-house criminal defence experts can also help you should false allegations of domestic violence result in arrest or criminal charges. If you have been served with an ex parte order (where your spouse has already visited court without notifying you) we can help you present your case at the return date alongside getting any orders currently in place lifted.

Starting divorce proceedings can be frightening as well as full of uncertainty; however, as leading family lawyers, Vardags can guide you through the first steps. Being excluded from the family home is a common worry that many have. Under law, a spouse’s rights include remaining living at the family home even if it is owned in their partner’s sole name. This is because of a principle called “home rights”, which also, when properly registered, prevents your spouse from selling the property from under you or from kicking you out. As experienced family lawyers, Vardags have experience in helping people protect their home rights, helping you remain in the family home.

Contact Vardags

01223 855237
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1 Saint Mary’s Passage, Cambridge

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01865 598 1429
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Clarendon House, 52 Cornmarket Street, Oxford

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01962 657268
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1 St James’ Terrace, Winchester
SO22 4PP

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