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What happens if in laws say they own assets in my divorce?

What happens if in laws say they own assets in my divorce? This is a regular problem in family courts today according to Cheshire family law specialist solicitors Stonehewer Moss. Michael Brennan, the accredited finance in divorce solicitor at the Northwich solicitors has experienced the disapplication of the procedural guidance expressed in this blog as the correct approach, so not only is divorce work fact specific but it is also mood of the judge dependant unless you want to splash more money out on appeals if the approach taken in your case is not classically correct. Michael remarks,” The experienced divorce solicitor knows two basic factors in play in the divorce courts: firstly, the outcome whilst aimed to be fair depends on the approach taken by the couple both to their marriage and the dissolution of it ( a secretive spouse in the marriage makes for a lack of trust in the divorce and consequently higher costs reducing the value of assets) and secondly that judges have a very wide discretion when case managing your case and then deciding the outcome if required to do so (the s25 MCA factors permit for a broad range of outcomes despite White v White and concepts such as proportionality can be used to scupper perfectly sound issues from  being explored.) I have experienced Judges poo poo submissions made about third party interests on the ground of proportionality, as much as I might waive about the case report mentioned in this blog to describe the procedure to be applied to the issue. Divorce is a human foible and the courts are no less subject to human needs and wants; if possible, negotiate the dispute with the help of professional advice before you find out the courts are less glamorous and dispassionate than you had anticipated.”

A third party right is an issue raised by someone like your in laws that they truly own the assets you are about to ask the court to distribute in your divorce. Such claims are based in civil law and apply legal concepts such as trusts that are difficult and expensive. Michael advises anyone involved to secure the services of the best barrister with chancery law experience they can find within his or her budget. A run of the mill lawyer cannot wing it upon such issues. If the issue is raised, it must be brought to the attention of the divorce court as soon as possible. The case authority upon procedure is called TL v ML and provides:-

In my opinion, it is essential in every instance where a dispute arises about the ownership of property in ancillary relief proceedings between a spouse and a third party, that the following things should ordinarily happen:

i) The third party should be joined to the proceedings at the earliest opportunity; 
ii) Directions should be given for the issue to be fully pleaded by points of claim and points of defence; 
iii) Separate witness statements should be directed in relation to the dispute; and 
iv) The dispute should be directed to be heard separately as a preliminary issue, before the FDR.

An FDR is a hearing within the divorce process that is a mid way point of the procedure but is usually, with sound advice, the point at which the case settles with the help of indications upon the issues by the judge. Michael quotes about £20,000 each as the cost of a difficult trust law dispute and warns anyone shopping about that cheaper quotes than that are leading you up the garden path or you are not helping yourself by using under strength barristers to present the case. The usual cost of a disputed finance case in divorce is between £5000 and £15,000, so it can be seen that adding £20,000 as the cost of a preliminary issue really must be justifiable and may be shot down by the court upon the ground of proportionality if, particularly, you as a spouse are asserting that a property legally in the name of in laws in fact belongs to a spouse. Michael further points out that should you instruct a collaborative law solicitor to negotiate in meetings outside of the court process you may resolve the case without upsetting the wider family and privately. Collaborative meetings can be arranged  at fixed fees. What happens if in laws say they own assets in my divorce? Little if it is not dealt with correctly but how it is dealt with and at what cost depends on you and your family.

For advice negotiation and representation in family law matters please call 01606 872200 e mail visit


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Stonehewer Moss Solicitors, Citadel House, Solvay Road, Northwich, Cheshire, CW8 4DP

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