Family Law Advice ‘More Important Than Ever Following Imerman’

Expert Looks Back On Impact Of Landmark Ruling

02.09.2011

Couples going through the difficult process of separation have been urged by a family law expert at Irwin Mitchell to seek specialist legal advice on their finances, after new research raised concerns over the continuing impact of the Imerman ruling.

Handed down last year, the decision explained that those who took and used confidential documents in divorce proceedings could face civil penalties, and even possibly criminal sanctions – meaning it is arguably more difficult for husbands or wives to force partners to make a fully disclose their assets.

Now, 12 months on from Imerman, Grant Thornton’s annual matrimonial survey has revealed the impact of the ruling – with a number of legal specialists claiming it has become harder for them to gain a fair settlement for clients, as certain assets were not disclosed or documents which highlighted such information were not obtained in the correct manner.

Alison Hawes, a Partner and family law specialist at Irwin Mitchell, has warned couples that the issues raised in the research mean that specialist legal advice is now more important than ever if they are to be successful in gaining access to the settlement they are entitled to.

Discussing the impact of Imerman, she explained: “Although we live in an age when the family home is often in joint names and married couples run joint bank accounts, quite often there is still an imbalance of knowledge when it comes to the family finances.

“As pointed out by Grant Thornton’s research, these issues do not just apply to high profile and big money cases.  They are a very real concern where there might be a family business that has always been run by the husband, and the wife has little or no information.

“There is a general feeling amongst specialist family practitioners that whilst Imerman may well have been a logical decision in terms of the law the practical effect is serving only to highlight an imbalance of power between divorcing couples.”

Despite this, Alison adds that couples should not underestimate the benefits that legal specialists can offer in relation to gaining accurate detail on specific cases.

She outlined: “Experts in this area know when to instruct forensic accountant and how to sift through complex financial documents, including company accounts. Family lawyers can also advise on any potential red herrings or loopholes identified, providing vital information and support to people who aren’t used to marshalling lots of detail of this kind in the most cost-effective manner.

“Imerman has undoubtedly added another layer of complexity to the issue of divorce, meaning it is fundamental that anyone going through the process seeks the best possible support.”