If you and your spouse or civil-partner hold international assets such as real estate, bank accounts or offshore investments, your financial settlement on divorce or civil partnership will need to take these into account so that the settlement is fair.
Overseas assets can make the division of matrimonial property a complex matter, so it is essential that you receive expert legal advice from a divorce solicitor who has experience in this field.
When you instruct Goodsells Family Law, you can be sure that we will work tirelessly to help you achieve the outcomes you desire in all matters arising from divorce or relationship breakdown.
Is the asset 'matrimonial property'?
In a divorce financial settlement, the assets to be divided will be those that are considered to be matrimonial property, or, as Lord Nicholls described in the case of White v White, "the financial product of both parties' common endeavour".
Ascertaining whether an asset is 'matrimonial' is key. For example, even if you have never visited an international property, if it was purchased during your marriage it may well be considered to be matrimonial property and, therefore, you have a financial interest in it.
However, any asset that was owned by your spouse prior to the marriage or inherited as a family heirloom may well be excluded from the divorce financial settlement.
Divorce jurisdiction is key
The jurisdiction (place) in which you get divorced is crucial to the likely outcomes of a financial settlement. When a couple has numerous international interests, including owning homes and businesses abroad, this may mean they have the right to choose where they get divorced. Seeking expert legal advice from an experienced divorce solicitor is crucial in this respect.
Some international jurisdictions treat the male spouse differently to female spouses or homemakers. Therefore, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible so that you can understand the most suitable jurisdiction for your divorce to ensure the fairest financial settlement.
Valuation of assets held abroad
Overseas assets held by a couple will be treated in exactly the same way as any other asset in a divorce. The assets and property will need to be valued and all documentation regarding the nature of each asset will need to be disclosed so that fair division can be established.
The valuation of land or buildings held abroad should be carried out by someone with local knowledge. If possible, you and your spouse should use one independent valuer as this can help to avoid costly financial disputes at a later date.
Similarly, if there are business assets held abroad, an accountant with knowledge of the local systems will be best placed to ensure the asset is valued correctly.
Hiding overseas assets
Financial settlements should only be negotiated once full and frank disclosure has occurred. If one spouse attempts to hide assets (and this is sometimes the case with assets held abroad) the settlement could ultimately be unfair.
Attempting to hide international assets is a serious breach of conduct in divorce financial settlement proceedings and a Family Court will look unfavourably upon any party who does not fully disclose all financial interests.
We can help you seek full disclosure with a formal request to your spouse's divorce solicitor and if you feel the response is not full and frank, we can seek a court order for disclosure.
Making a financial agreement enforceable
If you and your former partner are able to negotiate an agreement that is fair and all assets have been disclosed, we can help you draft an application to the court to convert the agreement into a consent order. This will mean that the agreement becomes enforceable should the other party default on the terms of the financial settlement. Likewise, if you later find that assets have been hidden abroad, you can apply to the court to make a ruling on what should happen to those assets.
If you cannot agree on the division of your matrimonial property, you will need to apply to the Family Court for a Financial Order so the court can decide a fair settlement. A Court Order is enforceable if one party defaults or breaches the order, however, when internationally-held assets are part of the settlement, it can be more difficult to enforce. We can provide expert assistance if a Financial Order involving assets held abroad has been breached.
Contact our financial settlement solicitor in Clapham, London
We have many years of experience representing clients in all types of financial settlement on divorce. Whether you need our help to ensure full financial disclosure of overseas assets, or you wish to protect assets held overseas that you believe your spouse does not have a legitimate financial interest in, we can help.
We can also assist if you need to make sure that a mutually negotiated settlement is in your best interests and protects your rights, or if you need representation during proceedings relating to a Financial Order.
Goodsells Family Law in Clapham has the expertise to assist you in all divorce financial matters. We fully appreciate that your concerns are pressing and unique, and we will always be open and pragmatic about your case, yet sensitive and understanding in respect of the challenges you face. Our rates are highly competitive and we will be completely open about the likely costs involved in handling your divorce financial settlement.