Getting divorced can be complicated enough – but if you are an expat couple and the assets you’re dividing up are overseas, it can be even tougher.

Cases can take longer, as efforts are made to establish the ownership and whereabouts of money, property and other items.

One recent case – that of Michelle Young, who won a £20 million divorce settlement from her tycoon husband after a seven-year fight – brought this to the fore.

One of the key reasons why the case lasted so long and became so acrimonious was the accusation that Scot Young had significant assets hidden abroad. At one stage Mrs Young claimed these were worth billions.

Although the judge ruled against these claims of vast wealth squirrelled away, the involvement of property held overseas doubtlessly prolonged the proceedings.


 Earlier this year, the Supreme Court gave its decision in another big money divorce case, that of oil baron Michael Prest, who was ordered to pay £17.5 million to his wife of 15 years, Yasmin.

Many of the assets in this case were tied up in UK property held by offshore companies. In the final judgment, it was ruled that these companies were holding the properties for Mr Prest and their value could be used as part of the divorce agreement.

Both cases highlight the significant delay and complication that overseas assets can add to an already complex and costly process.

Even if assets can be traced, and form part of a financial order made in England against your former partner, there is the question of enforcing the order.

Although enforcement action can be taken – often involving local lawyers from the foreign country in question – it is by no means automatic that a court overseas will uphold an English order. This again adds to the costs – and the stress levels – involved.

If you and your spouse are considering moving abroad or owning assets overseas, it is a good idea to keep a close eye on these, even if you are happily married.

Ensure all relevant paperwork is somewhere accessible, and if company ownership of an asset is suggested by your spouse, it may be sensible to take legal advice from a family lawyer. This should go some way towards mitigating the risk that assets will be hidden if the marriage falls apart.

If you’re going through a divorce in the English courts and have investments, property or cash in bank accounts abroad, it is vital that you are transparent in revealing all your assets at an early stage.

If it is discovered during the case that you are deliberately concealing things, it can be extremely damaging. You may end up with less money than you’re entitled to or, as Mr Young found out to his cost, you could even be sent to prison for contempt of court.

Ruth Abrams is a senior associate in the family team at SA Law (    

Original article via Could assets hidden overseas be your divorce downfall? – Telegraph.