Couples who conceal finances from each other could fall foul of the courts if they divorce, a lawyer warned yesterday.
Christina Blacklaws, family law expert at Co-operative Legal Services, said: "During a divorce, couples have a legal obligation to divulge financial information. If they don't it can lead to imprisonment for contempt of court."
Her warning follows the high-profile case of property tycoon Scot Young, who was jailed for six months last month for what a judge termed his "deliberate" and "flagrant" refusal to prove that he had lost a £400m fortune. "The fact is married couples are potentially entitled to a share of the value of any assets that either own at the time of their divorce, including any acquired before the marriage or after separation," Ms Blacklaws said.
New research from the Co-op suggests women are most likely to hide possessions during a divorce. Meanwhile, unlikely as it sounds, four-fifths of men claim to have been completely open and honest with their ex about their finances.
A lack of trust in their partner is the main reason people conceal cash, investments or possessions. Common tactics in divorce include making up fictitious debts owed to relatives or transferring large sums of money to new partners or family members.
"Lawyers can instruct accountants to go through the financial affairs of a husband or wife they suspect has undervalued their wealth," said Ms Blacklaws.
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