Husbands Behaving Badly: No Place to Hide

21 March 2012

Family Judges are sometimes required to take a forceful approach when dealing with a party who fails to take the court process seriously.  More often than not, the defiant party is the husband.  Non-cooperation may take various forms, as illustrated by cases over the last year in which husbands have, in an attempt to place assets beyond the court’s reach:

  • transferred them into Trusts, then claimed they no longer have the benefit or control;
  • transferred them offshore, and
  • deposited assets with companies registered abroad under the terms of “sham” arrangements.

Other misconduct might include disobeying court directions about filing documents or preserving assets, or simply ignoring the court process altogether. 

Such behaviour invariably requires the other party – usually the wife – to incur significant legal costs.  For example, where marital property is transferred elsewhere in an attempt to put it beyond the court’s reach, satellite proceedings (with the associated costs) are often necessary to locate the asset and restore it to the court’s control.

In more serious cases, the court’s arsenal includes something called a Hadkinson order.  This type of order – taking its name from the 1952 case in which it was first applied – is made to rectify something done in defiance of the court’s direction.  A Hadkinson order limits the wrongdoer’s access to the court until they put right their breach. 

By way of example, a court may make an order preserving assets until it decides on a fair award.  A party who breaches that order, and transfers assets abroad, might find himself on the receiving end of a Hadkinson order.  This will prevent him from asking for a variation of or appeal against the asset preservation order until the property is brought back to England and the court’s control.

Unsurprisingly, Judges do not take kindly to those who believe they are above the law.  Family courts strive to provide suitable protection for the financially vulnerable in divorce proceedings – usually the wife.  Those who set their face against the process and the court’s orders do so at their own peril!

Author: Connie Atkinson

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