Six things to do to protect your assets on divorce

Divorce|March 24th 2020

How to protect your assets on a divorce: Obviously, divorce can be a worrying time in relation to financial matters. Apart from the cost of the divorce, you may have to protect your assets from your spouse, and also protect any claim you may wish to make in relation to the assets of the marriage.

Of course, financial matters will be sorted out eventually, either by agreement with your spouse or by the court imposing a financial settlement. But what can you do to protect your assets before matters are finalised?

Well, there are many things that you can do to protect your assets on divorce. I can’t list them all (obviously, they depend upon your particular circumstances), but here are six possibilities:

Gather financial papers

Make sure you have all papers relating to your finances in your possession, including bank and credit card statements (these should be available online anyway), building society passbooks, share certificates, pension papers, life insurance policies, property deeds, and so on. You will need them. If you have them stored in a safe place, make sure no one else can access them. You will also want to ensure that your spouse does not get hold of them (although if they do, they should return them to you). If there are financial remedy proceedings you will have to disclose most of these papers to the court.

Change passwords

It is likely that you will have online access to various assets, in particular bank accounts. Your spouse may very well know your password for these accounts, enabling them to access your money. Make sure you change your passwords for all online accounts as soon as possible, so that your spouse cannot access them. Remember other things like PayPal and other online services that you use to purchase items, such as Amazon and other online stores. You might also want to change your password for any email accounts you have, as you will not want your spouse to access them.

Close or freeze joint accounts

If you have a joint bank or building society account with your spouse then obviously they will be able to access the account and could withdraw all money from it. To stop them from doing so you will need to get in touch with the bank or building society, and ask them to either close or freeze the account.

Home Rights Notice

If the (former) matrimonial home is owned solely by your spouse then it is possible that they could sell or mortgage the property without reference to you, thereby possibly reducing any claim that you may have against the property. However, there are steps that you can take to prevent this. In particular, if (as is likely) the title to the property is registered at the Land Registry you can apply to the Registry to have a ‘Home Rights Notice’ registered against the title to the property. This will mean that you will be notified if your spouse attempts any dealing with the property, and therefore makes it unlikely that your spouse will be able to go ahead with any sale or mortgage transaction.

Prevent your spouse dissipating assets

If you have reason to believe that your spouse may be trying to dissipate their financial assets in order to defeat any financial claim that you may make against them then there are steps that you can take to prevent this. Your spouse may, for instance, be intending to transfer assets to third parties such as family members, or they may be planning to move assets abroad, beyond the jurisdiction of the courts of this country. Whatever, you can ask the court to make an order preventing them from doing so, by ‘freezing’ the assets where they are. And if they have already transferred assets to a third party merely to defeat your claim then the court can order that the assets be transferred back from them.

Instruct an expert family lawyer

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you should instruct an expert family lawyer, as soon as you can. They will be able to advise you in more detail upon all of the above, and any other steps that you should take to protect your assets. They will also tell you whether you need any other expert assistance in relation to your finances, for example, an accountant.

Get in touch

If you would like any advice on how to protect your assets on divorce or other family law issues please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here. 

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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