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'Advantage: husbands'

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A Court of Appeal decision this week struck a considerable blow to women involved in divorce proceedings. The decision overturned the 'Hildebrand Rules' on the use of covertly obtained documents showing the husband's obscured wealth. The media dubbed 'Man from Del Monte' (earned by his lucrative sale of the juice company) won the appeal, preventing his wife Lisa Tchenguiz from using 250,000 secretly obtained documents in their £350 million divorce proceedings. The documents had been obtained by Ms. Tchenguiz's billionaire brothers, one of whom shared an office in Mayfair with the Man from Del Monte, Vivian Imerman. In July last year the High Court controversially ordered that the documents be returned and declared them inadmissible as evidence; this decision now being confirmed by Lord Neuberger in the Court of Appeal. The consequence of this decision is clear - it allows embittered husbands to add another string to their litigious bows and minimise their final payout. The funds in their offshore tax havens are protected secrets and women will no longer be able to produce such evidence of clandestine wealth in order to receive higher settlements. Women everywhere will be seething to learn that even if they obtain documentation showing their husbands are not in fact as impecunious as they would have the court believe, the information is useless to their cause. Reports of such cases are growing in number, with many husbands using the credit crunch as a convenient scapegoat, claiming they lost most of their assets in 2008/09. A notable example is the husband of model Michelle Young who is said to be hiding £400 million in offshore wealth, claiming that the recession hit him very hard. There will also likely be an increase in court claims by partners alleging that documents revealing their wealth were actually ill gotten and therefore inadmissible under this new regime. There is still scope that Lord Neuberger MR could allow appeal to the Supreme Court – the inherently huge court costs will be no problem for the property tycoon brothers Tchenguiz, however it appears unlikely that the Court of Appeal decision would be reversed. For the time being at least, it is a cause for celebration for divorcing husbands and unfortunately presents a further obstacle for their partners' lawyers. The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues. If you require any further information or wish to arrange a free initial & confidential consultation with one of our Divorce Lawyers. please call us on 01245 228106.