Thursday, 29 August 2019

"Cyber" space raid on bank account details

Shropshire couples going through a divorce must resist the urge to use covert methods to find out if their former partner is hiding assets during the process.

That’s the warning from Gemma Himsworth, who leads the family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, who said couples must handle the financial side of the process properly and resolve their disputes fairly.

Her words of caution follow a case in the USA where a former air force intelligence officer was in the midst of a bitter separation and parenting dispute.

“The officer was surprised that her estranged spouse still seemed to know all about her spending and her bank accounts – and after speaking to her bank, technology revealed the accounts had been accessed by a computer network in space.

“Her spouse was a decorated NASA astronaut on a six-month mission on the International Space Station, and she insisted she was simply monitoring the couple’s finances that were still intertwined. She said she had continued to use the password that she had previously used, and never heard from her estranged partner that the account was now off limits.”

Mrs Himsworth said although this was an extreme case, there were lessons to be learned for all couples going through a divorce.

“Both sides in a divorce are obliged to reveal the full extent of their personal finances – both at the start of the case and throughout the entire process. And it’s no good trying to hide your assets to protect them from your spouse as the consequences could be extremely serious – you could even face a prison sentence.”

Mrs Himsworth said the case from the USA showed that with today’s modern technology, nothing was secret and legal representatives had more information at their fingertips than ever before.

“It’s vital that both sides give full and frank statements about their financial position, because by claiming to have less than you actually do have, you would be depriving your former partner of their fair share.

“Both spouses must be open about their circumstances for the entire course of the court proceedings so there will be no opportunity to siphon off assets once the case has begun – and indeed any attempt to hive off any assets at any point could also lead to a custodial sentence.”