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Getting divorced can be a very challenging time. Unfortunately, the divorce process can be further complicated where the assets to be divided up are held overseas.

How are assets held overseas dealt with in divorce?

Assets that are held overseas can be taken into consideration for financial settlement in the same way as any other assets. However, there are some issues that arise when dealing with assets held abroad that may make the process more complicated. These are:

  • Time and Cost
  • Whether such property can be traced
  • Whether property held abroad is matrimonial property

Time and cost

In divorce cases where assets are held abroad, various issues can cause significant delay and thus increased cost. For example, in the case of Michelle Young who was eventually awarded a £20 million divorce settlement from her oil tycoon ex-husband, the case lasted seven years largely due to the difficulty in taking stock of all assets held abroad.

It is sensible to keep track of all assets held by both spouses – even if you do not anticipate a divorce. Keep all documents in a place where they can be easily found as this can help speed up divorce and settlement proceedings.

Whether Property can be Traced or has been Hidden

One of the main reasons the above case lasted so long was the difficulty in tracing the assets and also allegations that many of the assets had been hidden overseas.

Transferring assets overseas can make them more difficult to recover and often attempts are made to do this to prevent one spouse gaining access to them.

However, as outlined above this can seriously prolong divorce proceedings and increase cost. Furthermore, concealing assets can be extremely damaging to your case and may mean that you end up with less money than you are entitled to. It may also mean you face time in prison if concealing these assets is found to be contempt of court.

If you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets overseas you should ensure you take immediate legal advice.

Furthermore, even when the property has been identified and forms part of the financial order given by the court, enforcing such an order overseas can be difficult.

Enforcement action can be taken but this will often involve cooperation of your solicitor and local solicitors. However, it is not guaranteed that the overseas court will uphold the order. This is why it is very important to keep track of assets and monitor closely anything held abroad by either partner, even when happily married.

Whether Property is Matrimonial Property

Generally, spouses have greater entitlement to what is known as matrimonial property. In White v White Lord Nicholls described matrimonial property as "the financial product of the parties' common endeavour". This would include money made during the marriage and assets used and enjoyed during the marriage such as the family home. The court may determine that property held abroad by one spouse that was attained prior to marriage may not be deemed to be matrimonial property and thus may be exempt from financial settlement. Your solicitor will be able to advise you further on these matters.

Our divorce solicitors can guide you through all aspects of the divorce and settlement process including in relation to any assets held abroad. If you are concerned about assets held abroad or are considering divorce, contact us today.

Contact Sultan Lloyd

For advice on divorce and a range of other Family Law issues contact Nighat Sultana at Sultan Lloyd Solicitors on 01212482850 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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