It seems that when it comes to divorce, even an Anglican Bishop cannot be trusted to tell the truth about what he owns. In divorce proceedings in the UK the judge found that the Bishop, who used to be a banker before his ordination, hid hundreds of thousands of pounds in offshore accounts and investments.
Whilst it is understandable that even senior clergyman might want to divorce, after all, Bishops are human too and marriage is difficult. However, you might think it unbelievable that a senior clergyman would fail to cooperate with the High Court, instead seeking his own financial advantage. As a divorce lawyer, this does not surprise me at all. I have seen money go to friends or relatives for dodgy ‘investments’ or ancient debts, money spent on gambling or fast red cars, I’ve even seen money magically disappear. The temptation is just too great and often the most unexpected people, even Bishops, succumb to bending or hiding the truth.
Family lawyers expect this and this is why we ‘bang on’ about full and frank financial disclosure with complete transparency. If someone refuses to provide financial documents, the presumption I automatically make is that they have something to hide. Tracing the assets is a forensic skill that divorce lawyers excel at, this is one of the areas we really earn our fees and add value. I can analyse a set of bank statements and identify where the money comes from and where it goes, picking up the holes and with dogged determination continue until I get to the bottom of the family finances. Without this, how could anyone possibly know what a fair division of the assets are?
If, like the Bishop, someone just refuses to cooperate with the court and it is therefore impossible to get to the bottom of the finances. The court will make what are called ‘adverse inferences’ which really means an educated guess about what they own and divide the matrimonial property accordingly. In the Bishop’s case, his wife walked away with full ownership of their home in South West London worth £825,000 plus some other properties abroad. This may very well be more than she would have otherwise been ordered but the Judge would have taken a very generous view of what was fair to her and, in my view, rightly so.
For specialist advice about divorce or any other aspect of family law please contact Randal Buckley at 0208 899 6620 or firstname.lastname@example.org.