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Could the leaked Panama papers lead to divorce financial settlements being opened up?

View profile for Georgina Stavrou
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Although it seems that the leaked Panama papers are causing a great headache for many politicians and high profile wealthy celebrities, there is increasing discussion amongst family practitioners that the publication of the leaked papers may also lead to financial divorce settlements being opened up.

Last year the Supreme Court handed down two landmark decisions in the cases of Sharland and Gohil where it was made very clear that fraud and non-disclosure can potentially unravel a financial settlement. With this precedent in mind, it is expected that many suspicious former spouses will be scrutinising the leaked papers to see whether assets were hidden overseas and not disclosed at the time of their divorce settlement. If established a spouse could argue that his or her financial settlement should be revisited in light of the discovery of new evidence. 

This will undoubtedly unnerve those who have chosen to use complex overseas structures such as the ones in Panama to prevent financial claims being brought by their spouses during divorce proceedings. Although this may seem only fair if assets have been deliberately hidden to avoid a claim being made on divorce, consideration will need to be given as to the practicality and proportionality of locating relevant information amongst the 11 million documents released in Panama alone. There is some concern by family practitioners that this may become a very expensive fishing exercise by disgruntled and revengeful spouses. It will be interesting to see how this develops in the coming months.

If you are concerned that about your financial settlement and require legal advice please contact our specialist family team on 020 7935 3522.