Any good family lawyer will tell you that the best way of minimising the expense and stress of divorce proceedings is to be straightforwardly honest. The point was well made by a case in which a successful property developer paid heavily for his misguided attempts to deny his ex-wife a just settlement.
During their 25-year-marriage, the couple, who had three children, enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, spending substantial sums on holidays, restaurants, works of art and jewellery. Post separation, however, the husband claimed that his business had fallen into grave difficulties and that his liabilities exceeded the total value of the marital assets by more than £8 million. The wife argued that he had fabricated or exaggerated those liabilities in an attempt to defeat her claim.
In ruling on the matter, a judge accepted that some of the husband’s development projects had run into problems. However, with the assistance of acquaintances and offshore associates, he had created certain fictitious liabilities. The full picture of his financial position had been deliberately concealed and he had spent money on himself in a cavalier fashion since the marriage broke down.
In the circumstances, the judge ordered, amongst other things, that the former matrimonial home and the couple’s holiday home in France be sold and the proceeds paid to the wife. She was also awarded a £2 million lump sum, payable once a number of development projects were complete and profits realised. In the interim, the husband was ordered to pay £13,000 a month in maintenance to the wife and the couple’s youngest child. The court noted that the costs of the dispute were disproportionate to the couple’s resources and that the wife had accepted that she would in future have to economise.