The long-running and acrimonious divorce case between Scott and Michelle Young has finally reached a conclusion.
Details of the divorce have made headlines at every twist and turn with some developments surprising even the most seasoned legal practitioners. High Court judge, Mr Justice Moore, awarded Michelle Young £20m to settle the case, a sum she described as “disgraceful”.
Although the case is highly unusual due to the large amounts of money involved, there may be a few lessons to be learned for potential divorcees.
The Final Chapter
Michelle Young insisted all along that Scott Young was hiding assets and ‘playing the system’ by dragging the divorce proceedings out over the last seven years and secreting money away in offshore tax vehicles. In the run up to the settlement, further details emerged of the size of the potential assets involved as new forensic report on the potential value of Scott Young’s assets was revealed in court.
After previously claiming that her estranged husband owned assets valued at billions of pounds, the latest report indicated that he was worth around £700m just two years after he had submitted a claim for bankruptcy. The report was made by a forensic investigator based on details found on a wiped laptop that Scott Young gave to his daughter in 2008.
The forensic investigator commented on potential ‘schemes’ used by Scott Young to conceal the true value of his assets, such as properties purchased through holding companies, complex loan schemes between himself and various companies as well as confusing transfers of properties between companies and other individuals.
In January 2013 Mr Young, who insisted he was insolvent, was jailed for contempt of court after refusing to provide financial information in relation to the case.
The Concluding Hearing
Although according to Michelle Young a number of large, high value assets were accumulated during the marriage she failed to convince Mr Justice Moore that Scott Young was hiding billions. Instead the judge believed that he had assets closer to £40m.
Mr Justice Moore described some of Michelle Young’s claims about Mr Young’s finances variously as ‘wild’ and as having ‘serious evidential difficulties’. The High Court judge also heavily criticised both Michelle and Scott Young for their behaviour during the case.
In particular the judge condemned the amount of time the proceedings had taken, nearly seven years, and the amount of legal and expert costs that had been run up by Michelle Young, £6.4m. He did however accept that this was primarily due to Scott Young’s non-disclosure and awarded costs on an indemnity basis of what he considered the case should have cost if properly conducted.
Although this case clearly involves much larger sums than the average divorce case, the same emotional and legal difficulties can arise.
Parties seeking to hide assets should be aware of the risks of both jail for contempt of court and of hefty settlement awards and cost orders being made against them. The judge’s comments should also warn divorcing couples that the courts are losing their patience with excessive legal and expert costs.
For advice on any aspect of divorce and financial settlement, whatever the sums involved, please contact Jeetesh Patel via e- mail JPatel@rollingsons.co.uk or by telephone on 0207 611 4848 today for more information.