Ex-spouses should consider legal action if they feel they have been prevented from receiving full financial divorce settlements, according to Thursfields Solicitors.
The advice comes in the wake of a high-profile court case where an ex-husband conspired with his son to prevent his ex-wife from receiving what she was due.
Shane Miller, director, and head of the Family Law team at Thursfields was commenting after the Russian billionaire divorce case involving the Akhmedova family, where the wife was awarded a £453 million divorce settlement but only received £5 million.
The High Court ruled that husband Farkad Akhmedov had conspired with son Temur and transferred large sums of money and assets to him, including mansions, a superyacht, helicopter, and extensive art collections, to stop ex-wife Tatiana receiving her full settlement.
Following the court’s ruling, the wife has since accepted substantial multi-million cash and art settlements from the husband and son.
Shane said: “While this case has been settled, it just shows the measures some people take to prevent ex-spouses from receiving what is rightfully theirs.
“Everyone hopes for an amicable divorce, but as in this case, a husband or wife may dispose of assets to other family members to prevent them from being considered within divorce proceedings.
“Driving factors can involve couples not having had a prenuptial agreement in place for wealth accumulated before marriage, while other cases simply involve acting in spite to make things difficult for the other party.”
Shane explained that courts have certain powers under Section 37 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 which can prevent the disposal of assets or, in effect, bring them back.
These powers include Preventing Disposals or Freezing Orders, where a spouse can apply to prevent the other party from disposing of assets if they are aware that large sums of money are about to be transferred to other relatives.
“For such a claim to succeed, the court must be satisfied that the other party is about to dispose of an asset with the intention of defeating the claim for financial relief, or that the other party has the intention to frustrate its enforcement,”
“Another option is where a spouse applies for a Setting Aside order on disposal that has already been made, and in these cases, the applicant must show that the disposition was reviewable.
“This depends on whether the third-party acted in good faith, for valuable consideration, and without notice of any intention.
“An example might be if the spouse gives their Rolex watch to their brother for no money, while the brother knows that divorce proceedings are active.”
Shane said a spouse can also seek an Avoiding Enforcement order, setting aside an asset disposed of after financial proceedings have been determined.
She said: “An example could be where a wife is ordered to pay £50,000 to the husband, but to frustrate proceedings she transfers her entire investments, such as shares or bonds, to her mother. The court can enforce the order by ordering a sale against the investments.”
Shane added: “Caution should be taken when dealing with the financial side of divorce, as it can be difficult to spot that an asset has been or is likely to be disposed of, and the law surrounding this area can be complex and difficult to navigate.
“Therefore, if someone is worried that their ex-spouse is making or considering such disposals, or if they want more information about the powers of the court, legal advice should be sought as soon as possible.”