What is the point of the fraud and contempt warnings on Form E?

Family Law|June 10th 2015

The Sharland and Gohil appeals being heard by the Supreme Court this week have caused an enormous amount of interest in the popular media. The reason why there has been such interest is, I think, the basic issue of the consequences of lying to a court. That issue goes to the heart not just of our legal system but also of our whole concept of right and wrong. If someone can ‘get away’ with lying to a court then that seriously undermines one of the basic foundations of our society.

Amongst the media coverage I followed, I watched an interview between a BBC reporter and a leading family lawyer (no, not Marilyn Stowe, who gave an excellent interview on BBC Breakfast). The reporter, clearly having done his research, pointed out that the Form E Financial Statement, which obviously must be completed by all parties to financial remedies claims, includes a warning to the person completing it of the consequences of failing to include in it accurate details of their means. In fact, the front page of the form contains not one but two warnings. Firstly, it warns that if you are found to have been deliberately untruthful, criminal proceedings may be brought against you for fraud under the Fraud Act 2006. Secondly, it points out that the information given in the form must be confirmed by a statement of truth, and warns that proceedings for contempt of court may be brought against a person who makes or causes to be made, a false statement in a document verified by a statement of truth.

The leading family lawyer responded that he had never heard of anyone being convicted of an offence of failing to properly disclose their means. Nor, as far as I can recall, have I. What, then, is the point of the warnings on the Form E?

A cynic might point out that the reason why the system does not prosecute everyone who fails to tell the whole truth about their means on their Form E is that our prisons would soon be overflowing. There may be more than a grain of truth in that, but eventually the message would surely get through, and people would realise that they must tell the truth.

Seriously, the reality is that in most cases the failure of a party to make full disclosure of their means is dealt with in some way within the family proceedings, without the need for criminal sanctions. For example, the other party will usually be aware of it and will take steps to force full disclosure. Even if full disclosure is not forthcoming, the court can make adverse inferences, if there is evidence that undisclosed assets exist. There may also be costs consequences for the non-disclosing party. Ultimately, as the Form E also points out, failure to give full and accurate disclosure could result in any financial order being set aside.

In short, most of those who fail to give full disclosure of their means in a financial remedies dispute do not ‘get away with it’. The courts are usually able to identify them and ensure that there are, indeed, consequences. It is just that the consequences are not criminal, as the Form E warns. But that does still seem to make the warnings somewhat pointless, save as a method of ‘scaring’ the parties into telling the truth.

Which brings me back to the media attention. Perhaps the real worry is not that the warnings have no consequences, but rather that the knowledge that they have no consequences will mean that even more people will routinely ignore them, and therefore the authority of our courts.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. Guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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Comments(4)

  1. stichedup says:

    It’s all about money isn’t it? when money is involved, the courts will be turning your bed upside down. Hold back on a bit of money and you’ll feel the full force of the law. Make an allegation of domestic abuse and the courts will not even look for hard evidence let alone punish false allegations.

  2. P says:

    In short, most of those who fail to give full disclosure of their means in a financial remedies dispute do not ‘get away with it’
    ———————————————————-
    Funny old thing, my ex constantly accused me of hiding money this involved my solicitor every time thus increasing his bill to me. When we went to court she came with a sad story of having to rent a flat and her E form showed she had no money in either bank or savings accounts. After court she rented a 3 bed detached house and got herself a new car without touching any of the money she was awarded in court, ‘do not get away with it’ really!

  3. Elizabeth ahewitt says:

    I have read the above and I am in a position where my husband is working and claiming his pension he Denys working I have hired a reputable private investigator to proof this will I be able to send this into court with my consent order

  4. john kearney-jarrett says:

    What a sad state the courts are in with family law.my ex, having tried to have me put in prison on false charges then left me with her son and out daughter while she went partying and on multiple overseas holidays going through around £70000 in 2 years. She moved on to another guy and moved in with him and almost admitted it in form E. But when the judge wanted details of his assets and income she changed her story. She had never worked and had done this to her first husband as I discovered as well. 4 years of abuse and being in debt made me very ill by the time of the final hearing and the court changing dated left me confused and I missed the first day. So in my absence the court gave her half of everything I had worked for and ordered me to pay half her costs. Her partner she live with had bankrolled her legal team and I could not afford anyone to help me. None of my proof was looked at and despite appealing twice the judges were completely disinterested. She has commited fraud in court, been claiming benefits as a single mother despite openly living in her boyfriends home, and I have been left with all the debts. The court have ignored everything to do with S23 regarding age difference, I’m 63 she is 40, working ability and unmatched contributions as all the property was bought by myself. 2 houses before we were married and 1 during the marriage with funds from a property I bought 10 years before I met her. The result, she will have twice as much from my property as I will and I cannot afford a hour or get a mortgage. So don’t tell me there is any justice in this country. Just family courts that want to get the cases out the way. What a sad country, where an immigrant woman can have everything on her side yet an Englishman who has worked hard all his life received no support or justice in his own land. My advice, never get married in the UK. The courts have destroyed everything.

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