Social Media is increasingly becoming a tool to help identify assets and wealth following a separation. When it comes to dividing property at the end of a relationship, there are certain rights and obligations which come into play. One of these involves “disclosure”.
Disclosure involves providing and exchanging information regarding all assets and liabilities, even those assets you don’t believe should be subject to division, such as property acquired before the relationship, or property that was gifted. The aim of this is to get a clear picture of both parties’ financial positions and to know exactly what property is being dealt with.
Any settlement made without going through a full and proper disclosure process faces the risk of falling over in the future for causing “serious injustice”. This is a high threshold, but there have been cases where agreements have been set aside for individuals being misleading about their financial positions. For example, in 2015 in England, a woman appealed to the court when she discovered following a settlement that her ex-husband had hidden £7 million worth of assets. The court set aside the parties’ settlement agreement for material non-disclosure.
Social media and instant messaging have made it increasingly difficult for individuals to be dishonest about their assets, particularly when flaunting wealth has become a common habit on sites such as Facebook and Instagram. It is hard to justify a position of debt when your ex digs up that photo of you with the new car you just posted or screenshots of text messages in which you mention the European holiday you have planned for next month. Evidence of this nature is becoming increasingly prevalent in the courts, simply because it is so easy to access and there is a huge amount of it.
Individuals who are “found out” trying to hide assets will often have to go through arduous and expensive court proceedings, risk losing the assets they were trying to conceal in the first place and can be penalised by the Court by being ordered to pay the other party’s legal costs. Ultimately it is in everybody’s interests, to be honest from the beginning and strive to achieve a full and final settlement.
If you’re unsure about your rights and obligations when going through a relationship property settlement process, or have any other questions, please contact our family team: