The financial proceedings following the divorce of Mr and Mrs Goddard-Watts, a millionaire businessman and his ex-wife, have been widely reported in the press. In 2010, the parties reached an agreement that the wife should be awarded provision to buy a house worth £3.25 million and a £4 million lump sum, after their breakdown of their 13-year marriage.
As part of the process in negotiating a financial agreement, the parties will normally have engaged in the process of disclosing their assets. In some circumstances, where there is sufficient trust between the parties and extensive knowledge as to what assets are in their possession, limited financial disclosure may be exchanged. A slightly more relaxed approach to financial disclosure may be adopted when parties reach an agreement by consent, in contrast with the extensive level of financial disclosure required within financial remedy proceedings. In the latter, a full Form E (which details a party’s financial position) is prepared, together with supporting documents, and must be disclosed.
The extent to which the parties in this case exchanged in financial disclosure in 2010 has not been reported. However, proceedings are currently underway in the High Court as the wife has argued that the husband did not reveal the full extent of his wealth at the time their agreement was reached.
In 2016, a judge found that the husband had ‘given a false presentation’ and was ‘evasive and at times misleading’ when the parties reached agreement. The husband was ordered to pay the wife a further £6 million. The husband’s non-disclosure also coincided with his move out of the jurisdiction to Switzerland, arousing further suspicion as to his financial activity. In 2018, the wife made further complaint that the husband had not provided full details about the potential value of the business deals he was involved in. A judge later ruled in her favour that he had not.
Whilst the court are currently considering whether the husband should pay the wife a further sum, what does this actually mean? Is this the wife having a ‘second bite of the cherry’ following the husband’s post-separation success and change in commercial interests? No. The court has found that the husband is at fault for non-disclosure of assets and, in turn, found his non-disclosure to be material i.e. significant and relevant. The issues and any further award in this case directly relates to alleged non-disclosure at the time at which the original agreement was signed.
If you have grounds to suspect that material non-disclosure may minimise your entitlement to your partner’s wealth in the event of divorce, you have the following options available to you:
- Before proceedings: issue financial remedy proceedings: neither party is compelled to provide full and frank financial disclosure as part of any voluntary process (including mediation and negotiations between the parties/ through solicitors). The penalties for not providing full disclosure within the court process are more severe and will therefore incentivise any potential non-discloser to cooperate fully;
- During proceedings: prompt the other party’s disclosure by way of questionnaire, schedule of deficiencies, applications for third party disclosure and costs orders (although such applications need to be balanced against proportionality of costs);
- After proceedings: you may wish to make an application for the court to reconsider your case, as in the case of Mr and Mrs Goddard-Watts.
The judgment concerning the latest round of litigation in this case is due to end next month. We await further update.
Rayden Solicitors are familiar with litigation that feature issues concerning non-disclosure, multi-jurisdictional enforcement and variation proceedings. If the issues discussed in this blog affect you, please do contact us to discuss how we can help.