Sadly I often hear clients say that they believe their partners gave false information about their finances in court. These days it is all too easy to lie and get away with it as it can be extremely difficult, not to mention expensive, to investigate and uncover the truth.
My experience with these cases lies mostly where a high net worth couple have decided to divorce and the husband has been the major bread winner and maintained control over the finances throughout the marriage. The wife has limited access to bank accounts and historical data so the truth is reliant on the ex-partner providing the information.
Of course there are cases where roles are reversed and the wife is the main income provider however these are less prevalent in my clinic.
It is sad to say that even the most amicable of break-ups can turn nasty when discussions about money start. Obviously a divorce will have a financial impact on lifestyle for most people. It seems this poses such a threat to some that they will go to great lengths to deprive the other side of what is legally theirs.
For some it can come as quite a shock that someone who you once loved and cared about so much can be so unkind and not want to provide what is fair for your future. Especially if you have sacrificed your career to support them build theirs or raise their children. For others they expect dirty tricks from their ex and a fight to get the truth, but this can still be extremely painful to deal with.
Even the very best forensic accountants can struggle to prove financial discrepancies if the money trail has been well covered. In some cases the finances have always been set up in such a way that if a divorce ever arose then money would never be found. In my experience the courts find it hard to cope with lies and deceit around finances as they can only go on the evidence they are provided with at the time. One party may accuse the other that they have not fully disclosed all assets however without proof their case is helpless.
Most family law firms work with forensic accountants to ensure that they are doing their due diligence for their clients. Sometimes a lose thread on a bank statement can lead to a treasure chest but more often than not the true situation can be cleverly masked if someone is determined enough.
I am delighted to see two women currently standing up for their rights in the Supreme Court this week. Alison Sharland, 48, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, and Varsha Gohil, 50, from north London, both say their ex-husbands misled judges about how much they were worth.
Ros Bever, the lawyer representing both women, said: "Both cases raise serious issues about how the courts should handle situations where information shared with the court and used to agree a divorce settlement is later found to be false or incomplete. We believe the position that both women find themselves in is unfair and that is why we are taking their cases to the Supreme Court. To both women these cases are about a matter of principle and justice."
Sharland had accepted a settlement of more than £10m in cash and properties from her ex-husband. Gohil had accepted £270,000 plus a car from her former husband. With new information coming to light after the divorces were finalised they are fighting to get a revised settlement to take into consideration the financial facts that have come to light.
I watch with interest and baited breath to see the verdict on this case. It could set a long overdue precedent which revolutionises financial disclosure. It also has the potential to reopen divorce settlements up and down the country.
I hope it will finally make perjury in the Family Courts an offence that is taken much more seriously and ensure it has much bigger consequences than a proverbial rap on the knuckles and a disdainful look from the presiding Judge.
If you didn't do the right thing by your family then you deserve to pay for it when the truth finally comes out...which more often than not it will.