Conceal Assets at your Peril !!

April 15th, 2015

A recent Supreme Court decision has provided ample proof that courts will look very unfavourably on any party that is found to have deliberately concealed assets.

It should be noted that the decision in question related to a case which involved a very extreme case of concealment of assets.

The application was brought by the wife in relation to a divorce granted in 2001 in circumstances where she sought an order that the divorce be set aside or alternatively that further provision be made for her. She argued that the decision of the court in 2001 could not make “Proper provision” for her by reason of the substantial non-disclosure by her husband of the full extent of his assets.

In this case the husband had re married and the consequences of the court deciding that the decree of the divorce be set aside would have had very significant impact on the husband’s second wife.

The High Court found that four of the six substantial assets which the wife argued had not been disclosed were assets which the husband ought to have disclosed and in this regard he had breached orders for discovery made in the divorce proceedings. The assets in question were part of obligated financial arrangements in relation to various companies and trusts.

The High Court decided that it was not necessary, in order to provide for the wife, to interfere with the decree of divorce and made an award of €2.5 million in favour of the wife in addition to what she had received under the 2001 divorce.

The husband appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld the High Court decision and further held that the High Court’s findings in relation to the husband’s obligation to disclose, the finding of non-disclosure and the deliberate nature of same and the relevance of the non-disclosure were correct. The Supreme Court referred one issue back to the High Court namely a determination as to whether a particular asset had actually increased the resources available to the former husband and in this regard held back €240,000.00 of the award until this was determined.

The Supreme Court in a very forthright statement concluded that the “husband had knowingly committed perjury and deceit”. It is not clear if any further action by way of a criminal proceedings would be taken against the husband.

The High Court in the person of Judge Mary Irvine decided not to overturn the granting of the divorce and the Supreme Court also felt to overturn the divorce could affect the interests of others including the man’s second wife who had married him “ in good faith”, on the basis of the previous Court order that he was divorced.

The Supreme Court decision in rejecting the husband’s appeal against the High Court’s order in favour of his first wife is significant in relation to the jurisdiction of the Court in revisiting “proper provision” where there has been material non-disclosure of assets.

Once again this case proves the folly of parties putting their own selfish financial needs ahead of the benefits of a mutually agreeable settlement . One can only imagine what the legal costs were for both parties in having this case litigated through the High Court and the Supreme Court. It can be safely said that a properly mediated or collaboratively conducted case would undoubtedly have produced a less acrimonious outcome and an enormous saving in costs for both parties.

For further information or any family law query contact the South Dublin Collaborative Lawyers on info@southdublincollaborativelawyers.ie