Many new clients bring us original or copy documentation relating to their spouse’s or partner’s financial or personal position. The Court of Appeal’s 2010 decision in the case of Tchenguiz v Imerman & Others has made it more difficult to use or rely upon such documents, creating what some have called a ‘Cheat’s Charter’ for those parties not inclined to give full and frank disclosure of their financial position.
This note has been prepared to provide guidance about what should be done with such documentation.
1. If you bring someone else’s paperwork to us, we will not be able to look at, or hear details of the
information contained in it until we have established how the documents came into your possession.
We will need to ask you whether the papers were:
- removed or copied from papers in a locked cabinet, desk or briefcase;
- obtained through the interception of someone else’s post;
- printed from someone else’s password protected email account;
- printed off someone else’s computer without their consent.
2. In such cases we may have to return the documents to you and we will advise you not to take or copy documents from those sources again. We will have to advise you to return original documents.
3. If paperwork has been left openly around a shared home, we will be able to consider the contents of the documentation but we will not be able to withhold the fact that we have had sight of the paperwork. Your spouse or partner will need to be made aware that we have such documents/knowledge at an early stage. We will advise you that it is unacceptable to ‘ambush’ your partner with information from such documents and a court may criticise you and this firm if such tactics are employed.
4. We appreciate that you will remember some details from any paperwork that you have seen before you have advice from us. You cannot be expected to forget the contents of such paperwork on demand and your recollections could therefore be referred to in proceedings at a later date if necessary.
5. In divorce, and most other financial cases, your spouse/partner will have an obligation to give you full information of his or her financial position. Documents obtained from the sources specified in 1 above risk being rendered inadmissible in court in some circumstances. However, documents that disclose criminal activity or which are publically obtainable (e.g. a Grant of Probate) are likely to be admissible in court in any event. It is likely that documentation that has to be provided in the course of a usual disclosure exercise will also be admitted in court. (For details of such documentation see our Briefing Note in relation to Financial Procedures on Divorce.)
For further information please contact:
Nicola Harries – Partner and Head of Family
Tel: 01483 401262 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Caroline Gordon-Smith – Partner, Family
Tel: 01483 401215 Email: email@example.com
The information contained in this article is designed to provide, for guidance purposes only, a general introductory summary of the subject matters covered. It does not purport to be exhaustive nor to provide legal advice nor should be used as a substitute for such advice.
© Stevens & Bolton LLP 2015