The spotlight shone by documents leaked from a Panama law firm on how wealthy spouses hide their fortunes in divorces could make it more likely for this kind of dishonesty to be investigated, according to family lawyers.
Nigel Shepherd, a partner at Mills & Reeve, who will take over as chair of family law group Resolution later this month, told the Gazette that while the extent some have gone to to conceal assets from their partners is not surprising to family lawyers, the publicity will be useful in dealing with this in future.
‘Any publicity about the problem makes it more likely it will be investigated properly,’ he said. ‘When a lawyer is trying to present evidence about this to a judge who is sceptical about the time and money it would take to search for the assets, this publicity will be helpful.’
According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the leaked files from Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca revealed how some wealthy spouses have stored assets in complicated trust funds held by offshore shell companies to make it difficult for their partners to find out how much they are worth in divorce proceedings.
The revelations come shortly after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of two ex-wives, Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil, who said they were duped into ‘unfair’ divorce settlements, setting a precedent on how dishonesty would be treated in family courts.
At the time lawyers said the judgment would encourage other ex-wives or ex-husbands to reopen cases if they felt they had been misled during divorce proceedings.
Tony Roe, a family lawyer at Tony Roe Solicitors, said this leak would give potential litigants further impetus.
He said: ‘The recent Supreme Court cases of Sharland and Gohil have encouraged some (former) spouses to consider seeking to reopen settlements. Obviously this is not an easy process and demands expert specialist analysis.
'However, the Panama revelations can only add to this potential groundswell and are likely to feature in a good number of future divorce cases here.
‘This leak should come as a warning to any divorcing spouse who might be considering being less than forthright about their finances.’