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Sarah Tompson, Family Lawyer at Slater & Gordon, discusses disclosure in divorce proceedings


financial positions are likely to be following a divorce or dissolution. Before a lawyer can provide specific advice, both parties need to provide full and frank financial disclosure to each other (and to the Court, if proceedings are issued). However, it is not uncommon for one party to be worried that in order to avoid fair division of joint assets, that they are being hidden or dissipated by the other party.


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Te former position Until relatively recently family lawyers would regularly advise clients who were concerned that their spouses were not providing full and frank financial disclosure, to resort to self-help. Tey were being advised that they should obtain any financial documents (including electronic documents) they could without breaking locks or cracking passwords, take copies and then forward the copies to their lawyer and return the originals to their ex-spouse. Following the 1992 case of Hildebrand, it was believed that such behaviour was condoned, as long as the possession of such documents was revealed and copies were provided to the other side before the end of the disclosure process. However, this is not the case and the situation was clarified by the Court of Appeal in the 2010 case of Imerman. Tis was an interesting case whereby Mrs Imerman’s brothers worked in the same office as Mrs Imerman’s husband. When her marriage broke


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hen a marriage or civil partnership breaks down, one of the first concerns of the couple is what their respective


down, the brothers copied vast quantities of private financial documents and provided them to their sister’s legal team. Unsurprisingly, Mr Imerman took great exception to this and brought the matter to the Court’s attention. Te Court of Appeal took the opportunity in the case of Imerman, to clarify that the case of Hildebrand had been misunderstood. Tey explained that there is a right of privacy between spouses and as such, one party could not take confidential documents belonging to the other, nor could they make copies or send them to their lawyer.


What should you not do? Te Court of Appeal clarified that there is a duty of confidentiality between spouses or partners and that it is an offence under civil law for one party to interfere with documentation, (physical or electronic), which they know or should know to be confidential to the other party. It is also an offence for a solicitor to receive any such documentation. It’s essential therefore, that you do not try to obtain your ex-spouse’s financial information, but instead wait until they have formally disclosed it to you or your lawyer.


What can you do? Make sure you make a full and frank disclosure of your financial position and expect your ex-spouse to do the same. If they don’t, then there are things you can do. For example, if they fail to disclose the existence of a bank account that you know they have, then you will be given the opportunity to raise questions in relation to their financial disclosure. Within those questions you will be able to ask them to


provide a letter from the bank confirming what accounts they have had with that bank – the bank will then disclose the facts concerning the existence of the account. Nevertheless, the responsibility is upon the disclosing party to comply with their obligations to the Court and the other party. If there are substantial concerns that this is not happening and the questions fail to yield a response, then you will need to return the matter to Court.


For further advice on this topic or any other family law related query, please contact the family law dept at Slater & Gordon Lawyers, on 0808 175 7905 or visit www.slatergordon.co.uk.


Our local office is in central Manchester and we have additional meeting rooms in Bramhall. We offer a free initial consultation, either face to face, via telephone or we have video conferencing facilities if you prefer.


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