So­cial me­dia can re­veal hid­den as­sets

Post­ing im­ages of glam­orous nights out and hol­i­days on so­cial me­dia can come at a cost, warns fam­ily law ex­pert Elspeth Kin­der

Cheshire Life - - Legal Life -

There is no doubt that di­vorce, how­ever am­i­ca­ble, is one of life’s most test­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. Yet when ei­ther party seeks to de­ceive, the up­set and stress in­creases ten­fold. It isn’t un­usual to hear of spouses de­ceiv­ing the court with in­cor­rect fi­nan­cial ac­counts and claims of poverty. Un­for­tu­nately, money, prop­erty and as­sets are fre­quently hid­den in an at­tempt to ar­rive at a more favourable fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment.

There are a num­ber of meth­ods to un­cover hid­den wealth, yet of­ten the most fruit­ful method is the most eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble - so­cial me­dia.

Im­ages shared on so­cial me­dia are reg­u­larly used as ev­i­dence in di­vorce cases - spouses claim to be pen­ni­less in court but show off new cars, ex­pen­sive hol­i­days and lav­ish gifts on In­sta­gram and Face­book. Sum­mer hol­i­day sea­son of­ten sees im­ages ap­pear­ing on so­cial me­dia which can be used as ev­i­dence in court.

Hol­i­days are a time when peo­ple re­lax, let their hair down and try to leave their wor­ries at home - in­clud­ing, it seems, di­vorce pro­ceed­ings. While they are away en­joy­ing them­selves on hol­i­day they fail to ap­pre­ci­ate the enor­mity of post­ing cer­tain im­ages onto a pub­lic fo­rum - im­ages that could land them in hot wa­ter and see their set­tle­ment fig­ure soar.

Those who aren’t so­cial me­dia users are of­ten foiled by un­wit­ting fam­ily mem­bers and friends, who post im­ages of their trip with prized hid­den as­sets in the frame.

Even if a case is long-since set­tled, so­cial me­dia could ev­i­dence as­sets hid­den from the courts dur­ing the fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment process, en­abling the terms of the set­tle­ment to be en­tirely rene­go­ti­ated.

For any­one who sus­pects their hus­band or wife is con­ceal­ing money or as­sets, so­cial me­dia could be the key to un­lock­ing the ev­i­dence. It’s im­por­tant to not only keep an eye on their in­di­vid­ual pro­file, but also those of fam­ily, friends and even work col­leagues. If some­thing rel­e­vant is posted, al­ways take a screen­shot and save it in a se­cure file. Don’t wait for the ev­i­dence to dis­ap­pear.

The real moral of the story is don’t at­tempt to de­ceive the court and hide as­sets - a painful les­son that many di­vorc­ing spouses will no doubt learn over the com­ing weeks as the real cost of their sum­mer break be­comes ap­par­ent.

Joint Head of Fam­ily Law at JMW So­lic­i­tors LLP T. 0161 828 8384 E. Elspeth.kin­der@jmw.co.uk W. www.jmw.co.uk

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