A Freezing Order stops someone from moving, managing, or dealing with their assets. If you suspect that your ex-spouse or civil partner is trying to hide or dispose of property or money to prevent a fair financial outcome this is an effective option for safeguarding your interests until the conclusion of divorce or dissolution proceedings.
Family Law Solicitors Specialising in Freezing Orders and Asset Protection
Divorce is stressful enough. Unfortunately, sometimes bitterness can cause people to act in ways that unfairly impact the settlement. If your ex-spouse tries to conceal money and property that ought to be included, you may miss out on your full entitlement. Our friendly, experienced Family Law team is here to give you professional legal advice, so you can make the most informed choices to confidently move on with your life without losing out.
At Rowlinsons our Family Law solicitors have extensive experience in obtaining Freezing Orders on our client’s behalf to protect their matrimonial assets. We’ll advise you on whether you have a case to apply for a Freezing Order and assist with the application.
Our expertise in this area and attention to detail means we can guide you through the process to ensure that nothing is overlooked that might leave you at a disadvantage.
As members of Resolution, we’re committed to a non-confrontational approach to resolving matters as amicably as possible. The head of our Family Law team is trained in Collaborative Law and is an accredited Resolution specialist and Family Law mediator. This means you have Family Solicitors on your side dedicated to maintaining as harmonious and stress-free an experience as possible for everyone involved.
Get in touch today to find out how we can help you with Freezing Order applications.
What is a Freezing Order and its Purpose?
A Freezing Order or Injunction is a court order that’s applied to stop a person from being able to deal with, manage or dispose of their assets. In divorce proceedings, its purpose is to prevent a former partner from undertaking any financial activity which might frustrate your valid claim to a share in their wealth.
Assets can be concealed in several ways including:
- Transferring them to a third party
- Transferring them overseas
- Selling or re-mortgaging property
- Spending savings
- Placing money in a trust
When Might You Need a Freezing Order or Injunction?
When one person in a marriage is primarily in control of the finances or they have a high net worth the ‘financially weaker’ partner may not be fully aware of how the finances are structured. Not understanding the full situation can leave them vulnerable.
The court stipulates that in divorce the division of assets must be fair but when one partner is able to conceal assets, it creates an inequality which could lead to an unfair outcome at the expense of the other.
If you’re uncertain about what assets your ex-spouse has or worried about whether they will be safely retained, you might need to put an injunction in place to freeze their assets.
Once frozen, assets cannot be placed out of reach of the court so it can still consider them as part of the settlement. This prevents the financially stronger person from leaving the marriage with money, property, or other valuable items to which the other party may have a claim.
What Assets are Covered by a Freezing Order?
Assets that are typically covered by a Freezing Order are:
- Bank accounts
- Vehicles including cars, yachts, and boats
- Valuable items like artwork and jewellery
- Shares and investments
Anything owned by your ex-spouse that may be sold or transferred can be frozen. This includes overseas assets, although enforcing a freezing order abroad can be easier or harder to do depending on the country.
Even assets that haven’t been acquired yet can be included if the expectation is that they imminently will be, for example, a payout for compensation or an inheritance.
How do I get a Freezing Order?
The process of obtaining a freezing order can be challenging and expensive but if the value of the assets at stake is high enough it could be worth it.
First, you must make an application to the court. When the application is made it is usually ‘without notice.’ This means that the other party will not be notified of your application. This is done to minimise the risk that they will try to conceal or dispose of assets before the order can take hold.
Then you will likely have to attend at least one court hearing. Your Family Law solicitor will represent you to make the process go as smoothly as possible.
You will also have to make an ‘undertaking,’ which carries some risk as you could be liable to compensate your ex-spouse or an affected third party if your application is not successful or the Freezing Order is later discharged.
When will the Court Grant an Injunction or Freezing Order?
Divorcing couples must be clear and upfront about their finances so when someone tries to hide the true extent of their wealth, it deprives the other party of receiving their fair share of financial benefits.
The purpose of a Freezing Order is to avoid this injustice. Nonetheless, a Freezing Order is not taken lightly.
The court will consider granting a Freezing Order when evidence is brought forward that proves you have an arguable case.
Evidence should show that:
- There is a risk of an injustice being carried out without the Freezing Order
- There’s a risk your ex-spouse may try to conceal assets
- There are sufficient assets at stake to substantiate your claim
Who Does a Freezing Order Affect?
The primary target of a Freezing Order is your ex-spouse, but it will affect other parties. People who manage, deal with or benefit from assets or money covered by the Order will be bound by its terms. Any third parties involved must be served notice when the Order is granted. If they play a role in dealing with the assets (for example, the bank where an account is held) they will need to know the details of the Order.
How Long Does the Freezing Order Last?
The Freezing Order lasts as long as the court decides is necessary or until the financial settlement is finalised.
For applications made without notice the duration of the Freezing Order is typically 7-14 days to begin with. After this, there will be another hearing when your ex-partner can attend. At this hearing, the court will either decide to keep the terms of the Order, vary the terms, or discharge the Order.
If the Order is left in place, then it usually lasts until the divorce proceedings conclude.
What if my Ex-spouse Hides or Disposes of Assets Before the Order can be Made?
It’s best to act early when you’re in a situation with a high-net-worth individual or situations with complicated finances. That’s why an application made without notice should be made as soon as possible so you can ask the court to freeze assets before they’re out of reach.
If assets have already been moved, we can advise you on how to proceed. You may require the use of a forensic accountant to undertake an investigation to track them down.
You may be able to get a Disposal of Disposition Order which targets transactions such as sales or transferrals made to frustrate financial claims. This will only be granted if you can prove the asset was exchanged for less than the appropriate value or if the third party receiving the asset did not act in good faith.
What if my Spouse Ignores the Freezing Order?
If your spouse or anyone bound by the Freezing Order does not comply, they will be held in contempt of court. Their assets may be seized and they could be fined or even receive a prison sentence.
Can I Avoid Being the Subject of a Freezing Order?
If you’re a high net-worth individual going through a divorce, you may be at risk of having a Freezing Order made against your assets. Although you can’t control what the other party decides to do, there are some steps you can take to minimise the risk of an application being made.
When going through a divorce it’s best to ensure that you
- Are clear and honest about the disclosure of your assets
- Communicate consistently with the other party
- Remain open to cooperative discussion.
Can a Freezing Order be Challenged?
You have the right to challenge a Freezing Order. You will have to demonstrate that your spouse has no arguable case by showing:
- There’s no risk of you disposing of your assets with the intention to frustrate your ex’s claim
- The amount of assets frozen is excessive and will cause you hardship
If a Freezing Order has already been granted, you can apply for it to be set aside or to vary the terms. If you are subjected to a Freezing Order our Family Law team can provide support and guide you on the best course of action.
Do I Need a Solicitor?
A Freezing Order is an extreme measure that the court will not grant lightly. They are expensive to put in place and carry a financial risk to the person applying for one as he or she is liable for damages if the Order is discharged or unsuccessful.
It’s important to act quickly whether you’re applying for a Freezing Order or on the receiving end. That’s why in such complex legal matters the advice of a solicitor is essential. At Rowlinsons we are experienced in helping divorcing spouses safeguard their interests and we can let you know whether a Freezing Order is appropriate in your situation.
Rowlinsons Solicitors can help you reach the best outcome and protect your financial interests in a divorce or separation. Our Freezing Orders specialists are accredited members of the Law Society's Family Law panel. Our team is approachable, friendly and professional.
We always aim to achieve amicable resolutions swiftly. However, when litigation is necessary, we have the experience and know-how to deal with the courts effectively
By choosing Rowlinsons for advice regarding asset protection in divorce, you are assured of having the best legal expertise from expert Financial Settlement Solicitors. We are committed to providing exceptional levels of client care and will work closely and considerately with you to help find the best outcomes.
With expert Family Law & Divorce Solicitors based in our Runcorn and Frodsham offices, we are recognised as one of the leading teams of Divorce Solicitors in Cheshire. We regularly help clients throughout the Northwest region including St Helens, Widnes, Warrington, Chester, and Northwich. We are able to act for clients right across England and Wales, so talk to our team today.
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