Many divorces dealt with in England and Wales involve significant assets located overseas. In order to achieve a fair outcome, it is important to ascertain what those assets are and their value. This is not always a straightforward task and, if either party is not forthcoming with his/her disclosure, or tries to hide foreign assets, it may require assistance from lawyers in other jurisdictions and other specialists to assist with asset tracing. The family court in England and Wales has wide ranging powers in relation to orders for disclosure and, provided your lawyer is adept at dealing with international divorce, it is generally possible to get to the bottom of any hidden foreign assets.
Once evidence of those assets has been obtained, the family court will make orders in relation to the distribution of assets on divorce. If there are sufficient assets in England and Wales to meet the applicant's claim, the court may take the view that it would be easier to make orders in respect of those assets that are within the jurisdiction, as opposed to making orders in relation to assets overseas. However, if the majority of assets are overseas then that may not be possible.
The English family court has incredibly wide-reaching powers in terms of the potential financial orders it can make. By way of example, it can order the transfer of an asset from one party to another; it can order a property to be sold and the proceeds divided between the parties; it can order pensions to be shared and spousal maintenance to be paid for joint lives (i.e. until either party dies or remarries). These powers extend to assets at home as well as overseas. However, enforcing orders made in relation to foreign assets can be complex and costly. It is important to take specialist advice from a family lawyer specialising in international work before embarking on such cases as they require a degree of expertise.
The method, and indeed ability, to enforce an order overseas varies enormously from country to country. England is a member of various bilateral and international conventions which are intended to make international enforcement more straightforward. For example, if the assets are located in the USA, Australia or a country within the EU, it will be much easier to enforce than, for example, the UAE where family courts will only enforce orders that are Sharia-law compliant. It is therefore vital to obtain advice at an early stage, ideally before commencing proceedings in England.
This firm is regularly instructed in relation to divorce involving foreign assets and it is vital to seek advice from a specialist in this complex area.
Interested in knowing more? More information on divorce can be found in our FAQs here and a copy of our Family Law Glossary - that tackles some of the common terms that crop up during the course of proceedings - can be found here.