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Parlour games in the divorce courts

The court will take into account all the assets of a married couple when deal- ing with their divorce. We can consider each of them in turn and then return to them collectively.

While your wife has only a minority interest in the business, the court may decide she has had a significant role in generating business success. As your spouse may be deemed to have assisted your career, she may be entitled to a share not only of the value of the business but also some of the future income stream.

A good example of this in action was the relatively recent case of former Arsenal footballer Ray Parlour. Mrs Parlour may not have been a “midfield dynamo” but the court decided that she pretty much should have been on the Arsenal payroll for many years.

It is likely that the published business accounts will be scrutinised in order to determine the value of your spouse’s interest in its value now and in the future. The value will be determined at the time of the court’s decision and not at the time that you and your wife decided to divorce.

Since December 2000, the courts have been able to create pension-sharing orders for couples in England and Wales who start divorce proceedings. What happens is that pension rights are transferred from one spouse to the other at the time of the divorce.

You do not say what type of pension arrangements you have or whether your pension fund is the same as or greater than your wife’s fund. However, I am assuming that yours is the greater of the two. Therefore, it is likely that the court will require that part of your pension fund is transferred to your wife and she will then be entitled to deter- mine where it is invested.

Pension benefits that cannot be shared include the entitlement to the basic state pension although your spouse can actually claim a state pension based on your National Insurance contribution record if it is better than hers. You will be required to complete a financial statement form and fully disclose the details of the arrangements that you have.

I assume the house you own is in joint names and held on the basis of joint tenancy where you both effectively own the entire house. The value of the house will again have to be taken into account in the divorce settlement. If it is the case that one of you wants to continue to live in the house, then other assets such as pension funds and business assets might be used to come to an amicable agreement about the splitting of the ownership of all the assets.

You ask about protecting the assets. Are you asking if there is a way in which you can hold on to the value of the assets without your spouse getting hold of them? The answer is no. I must advise you to declare completely and fully the extent of the values of your pension arrangements and business assets. There should be no attempt on your part to try to hide the value of assets from the court.

I appreciate that some people do attempt to do this but the consequences of such non-disclosure are not pretty. As the warning on the financial statement states: “A failure to give full and accurate disclosure may result in any order the court makes being set aside and, if you have been deliberately untruthful, criminal proceedings for perjury may be taken against you.”

The best protection you can get is to employ the services of a competent lawyer.

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