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The 24-hour divorce – not possible for many

Member: Nifa

British couples are to be allowed to get divorced in as little as 24 hours from now on, as they can attend a regional ‘divorce centre’ to work on their marriage under a court shake-up. Currently, an uncontested divorce can take up to 33 weeks to finalise and costs (on average) in the region of £400.

This puts pressure on the courts, which deal with the applications at the moment, but under the new system this would be handled by a divorce centre, which could mean a divorce taking between 24 and 48 hours.

While this will no doubt be a boon to those who have simple financial arrangements and where neither party contests the divorce, financially complex cases or those where one spouse believes the other to have hidden assets will still need to be handled by the courts and both parties would be advised in these situations to hire a forensic accountant.

This is borne out by news this month that the UK Supreme Court is to consider the impact of fraud in divorce settlements after two women brought an action against their former husbands for concealing the true nature of their assets during the original divorce hearings. According to the women, they were short-changed and denied justice at the time of their divorces, amid suggestions that such behaviour happens regularly in high-value divorce cases, and they have argued that all ex-spouses should be entitled to reopen negotiation in a concluded divorce agreement.

In one of the cases, the wife accepted a £10.35m settlement but later found that her husband’s company was worth considerably more than previously revealed. In fact, it was found in an earlier case that he had “laid a false trail by his dishonest evidence”. In such cases, the forensic accountant acting for the wife would not necessarily follow that trail but would look at other evidence that might have led the court to come to another conclusion – and given a very different valuation of the business.

Author: Roger Isaacs, 26 June 2015

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