Freezing Your Spouse’s Assets Within a Divorce
Upon separation, married couples can be faced with the difficult task of reaching a suitable agreement with regard to the financial matters.
Separation is often painful and can trigger a number of emotions such as anger and hurt. This can lead to one spouse purposely spending the matrimonial assets or selling/transferring assets with the aim of defeating the other spouse’s financial claim. This may mean that by the time the Court is in a position to make a final financial order, there may be limited assets remaining.
Section 37 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 states that the Court has the power to grant an injunction in order to protect a spouse’s claim for financial relief. An application can be made to the Court within matrimonial financial proceedings to restrain and prevent one party from entering into transactions which could result in defeating the other spouse’s financial claim.
Such an application would be filed with the Court when a person has a genuine concern that their former spouse is deliberately entering into transactions and dealings, for the sole purpose of ensuring that the person suffers financially as a result. There are many examples of when such concern may arise, such as one person of the marriage spending large amounts of savings from a bank account, transferring assets outside of the UK, or the sale of a matrimonial property, which is in the sole name of one party.
In order to succeed with obtaining such an injunction, the person making the application needs to demonstrate why an injunction is needed and the Court will require evidence as to the concerns that they have. An injunction can be applied for without providing the other party with notice of the application, however, evidence will need to be provided as to why the other party should not be notified. A justified reason for granting an injunction without the other party being notified, would be due to concerns that the former spouse will enter into as many transactions as possible, as soon as they become aware of the application being made.
An injunction under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 will clearly set out what steps can and cannot be taken by the party subject to the order. An order will usually limit a person’s spending to their day-to-day living and business expenses and also prohibit that person from entering into certain transactions. An order can also be made to set aside a transaction which one spouse may have already entered into. For example, if one spouse deliberately transfers their shareholdings to another person, to defeat their spouse’s claim, the Court can set the transfer aside.
Once a freezing injunction has been granted, the Court will usually discharge the order at the conclusion of the financial application, when a final financial order has been granted.
If you become aware that your spouse is dissipating matrimonial assets, it is important that you take quick and decisive action.
Chloe Russell is a Solicitor at Goody Burrett LLP and specialises in family law. 01206 577676
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