Splitting up from your spouse has the potential to become complicated, even in the most cordial of divorces. But when you have assets overseas, dividing them can make things more complex. It’s helpful to know what you can expect if foreign assets are involved in your divorce, what the UK courts expect and how they handle these kinds of cases.
Overseas assets may be a holiday home, investment portfolios, land, other properties or bank accounts and business interests based in another country. One spouse may own the asset solely, or the asset may be owned jointly by both spouses. In either case, all finances need to be fully disclosed in financial settlement cases.
In all divorces, financial assets like property and businesses need to have a full market valuation so the courts have a comprehensive understanding. Real estate agents, tax specialists and accountants are usually the kinds of experts who are onboarded to do this. It’s advisable to find an impartial valuer who both you and your ex-spouse agree on to help prevent any future disagreements which may lengthen proceedings.
When valuations have been agreed upon, they will then be considered for division in the same way as other marital assets are in UK law. This means that the courts will typically begin with a 50:50 split between the two parties. This split will often change based on other factors in a divorce. For instance, whether or not the asset was attained before the marriage, what the living requirements of any children involved in the divorce are and what the earning potential of each spouse is. The length of marriage is also considered, so for example, if you have been married for over 5 years, the division is more likely to be closer to a 50:50 split than a short-term marriage – usually one that is under 5 years.
It is important that every asset is fully disclosed during a divorce. Hiding assets abroad is strictly unacceptable in the eyes of the UK courts. Doing so can result in a more protracted and expensive process, and the person concealing assets can be subject to significant penalties, including a reduction in their final settlement.
If you believe your spouse has assets abroad but has not disclosed them, then you can put forward a formal request to their solicitor, and in some cases, it may be necessary to issue a court order to ascertain the facts. Further investigations can be made through the help of a forensic accountant who will scrutinize the assets that have been declared to spot any discrepancies.
When you have reached an agreed settlement, this will be made into a court order which will need to meet the enforcement requirements of the foreign jurisdiction where the assets are located. When spouses cannot agree, the court will decide. In most cases, there is a reciprocal agreement between the UK with the other countries to recognise UK court orders which can help ensure parties are compliant.
In all divorce cases, to save time, cost, and stress, it is valuable for both parties to agree as much as they can on the division of their overseas assets. If you believe your ex-spouse is hiding assets abroad or will not comply with court orders, then it’s especially important to speak to a family lawyer with expertise in the division of overseas assets.