27 June 2013
What Happens When Freezing Orders Thaw Out?
It has been reported in a number of newspapers that the wife of a wealthy husband has been refused the renewal of a Freezing Order which was put into place against her husband’s estimated £20 million worth of assets as part of divorce proceedings.
This included preventing him from selling their villa in Spain worth an estimated £10 million. It appears that the original Freezing Order was made on the basis that the wife alleged that her husband had threatened to divorce her and disappear, leaving her with nothing.
The requirements for a Freezing Order are high and the orders themselves tend to be draconian, with Judges only ordering them in extreme circumstances. The applicant must be able to demonstrate that there is a real danger that the financial assets may be removed from their spouse’s possession or control.
If the applicant can prove this, the court has the power to prevent someone from disposing of property, money, land and any other disposable assets. In addition to this the courts have the power to request that foreign courts grant ‘mirror orders’ which prevent the disposal of foreign assets.
In this particular case the presiding Judge commented that freezing injunctions can also make what may already be a difficult divorce, much more aggravated and can further ‘sour’ the relationship between the couple. It must therefore be carefully considered whether a freezing injunction is appropriate and worth the additional cost which will be incurred in making the application.
It is also revealed that the Judge refused to renew the Freezing Order at least partly because the wife subsequently admitted that she had obtained information about the husband’s assets by breaking into his safe. This brings another important case into consideration. After Immerman v Immerman, the courts have concluded that it is an actionable breach of confidence for one spouse to obtain private and personal information and / or documentation regarding their spouse without, or against, their permission.
As stated above, in this particular case the wife later admitted to breaking into the husband’s safe in order to obtain information regarding the true value of his assets, should they later divorce. This is quite clearly a breach of confidence and consequently the wife is now reportedly being sued by her husband for breach of confidence and misuse of private information. It appears that the case will be heard before the divorce proceedings.
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