Freezing Assets

Freezing assets


When a marriage or civil partnership breaks down, the parties often must work out how to divide their assets between them in a fair way. The foundation of this process is that both parties provide full and frank disclosure of all their assets and do not dispose of assets to reduce the amount that the other party is entitled to.

Sometimes, one person will try to get rid of an asset by selling it at less than its true value or by giving it to a family member. It is possible to apply for an injunction to prevent the person disposing of an asset and even freezing all their assets both in England and abroad.

Getting an injunction

Granting an injunction is not a step that the courts take lightly and there is a high threshold of evidence required before an injunction can be obtained.

The person applying for the injunction must provide clear evidence that:

  • There is a solid risk of dissipation of assets to his or her detriment; and
  • The evidence submitted must contain clear facts. Sources of information and belief must be clearly set out.
  • Only in cases of critical importance will the court make an order without the other party being notified first.

These principles were recently looked in the case of J v H (2022 EWFC 133). The Husband applied for an order freezing his wife’s assets all over the world. The Wife came from a rich family and was worth several millions of pounds. The Husband’s application stated that the wife had withdrawn £32,000 from a joint HSBC account and $18,000 from a joint account in Dubai. By the time that the application was heard by a Judge the Wife had paid back the $18,000 into the joint Dubai account at the Husband’s request.

The Judge said that the Husband’s evidence was “thin” and that a mere suspicion or anxiety on his part was not sufficient to justify an injunction being made. He also criticized the Husband for giving the Wife only one hour’s notice of his intention to make the application.

The Husband’s application was dismissed, and he was ordered to pay the Wife’s legal costs capped at £39,027.

How we can help

If you have concerns about your spouse or civil partner disposing of assets, please speak to a member of our specialist family team.

The above is meant to be only advice and is correct as of the time of posting. This article was written by Louise Eady, Senior Associate in the Family Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of January 2023.



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