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25 January 2013

Prison threat for separating couples who attempt to hide wealth

The press has recently reported on the six month prison sentence given to property tycoon Scot Young on 16 January 2013 in the High Court, Family Division, as a result of his failure to provide full and frank financial disclosure amid an acrimonious divorce.

Mr Young, said to have owned assets worth some £400m in 2006, now claims to have lost the fortune but has failed to provide an explanation as to the whereabouts of the assets.

In the divorce proceedings in 2009, Mr Young was ordered to pay £27,500 per month in maintenance but he has not made any payments. Edward Fitzgerald QC, for Michelle Young, told the court that Mr Young had “given absolutely no explanation” about where the money had gone. According to Mr Justice Moor, a fine or suspended sentence for Mr Young would not have been a “sufficient penalty”. 

When couples go through a divorce or separation and a financial settlement at the end of the relationship cannot be readily agreed, there is a requirement for each party to provide full and frank disclosure of their finances to the other. The decision by Mr Justice Moor to impose a prison sentence for Mr Young’s “flagrant and deliberate contempt” in not doing so underlines the importance of complying with the requirement to give full and frank disclosure and the possible consequences for failure.

The case involving Mr Young makes it clear that individuals should not even contemplate an attempt to “hide” their wealth in order to secure a more advantageous financial settlement. Furthermore, the obligation to disclose all information regarding personal finances not only applies at the outset but is an ongoing requirement throughout the course of proceedings. 

Amanda Owens, head of the family team at Steeles Law, commented that people must not treat their obligations lightly: “When anyone embarks on a divorce or separation, it is vital that as much information as possible on their finances and assets is given to their lawyer at the outset and throughout proceedings as they progress.”
 
At Steeles Law our family team strive to help you deal with the issues in an empathetic and timely manner and in the most cost effective way for our clients as possible.

If you are considering divorce, dissolution or separation the outcome always depends on the circumstances of each case and therefore we would urge anyone about to embark on this to seek independent legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

For further information or to arrange for a fixed fee appointment with one of our practitioners, please email family@steeleslaw.co.uk or telephone 01603 598000.

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