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Resorting to skulduggery in divorce proceedings is sadly common but almost never does either side any good. That was certainly so in one case in which a man surreptitiously took documents from his ex-wife’s home and sought – unsuccessfully – to rely on them in court.
During their five-year marriage, the couple had lived largely on income from a family trust of which the wife was a beneficiary. After their divorce, it was agreed between them that the husband would receive a total of £68,000 and a car, in full and final settlement of all his financial claims against his wife.
Some years after the end of the marriage, the husband became convinced that his wife had failed to disclose the true extent of her wealth. He claimed that he had not been in his right mind at the time of the settlement and sought further financial support from her. In pursuit of his claim, he had offered to repaint his former wife’s home and taken the opportunity to go through her personal papers and remove any of them that he believed would be helpful to his case.
In dismissing his claim, the High Court ruled that he could not be allowed to rely for any purpose on the documents that he had unlawfully taken. Although they were not kept under lock and key, they were taken from a private home in breach of the wife’s right to privacy. He was at all times aware of the existence of the trust and there was no evidence that he lacked the mental capacity to enter into the settlement. There had been no scheming or non-disclosure by his wife and there was no evidence that he had acted under duress or that she had brought undue influence to bear.
“The courts have little time for people who acquire evidence through underhand means,” says Paula Futer. “If you have been misled in any financial settlement, we can help you, using appropriate procedures, to obtain the evidence you need.”