Honesty may be the best policy for a successful marriage. But when it comes to divorce, couples are becoming increasingly devious in concealing their wealth from each other.
One fifth of couples who divorced last year tried to conceal their assets or income from their spouse – a figure which has doubled since 2006 – a report has found.
The study – by the accounting firm Grant Thornton, which surveyed 100 family lawyers – found that husbands were much more dishonest when a marriage crumbled.
In cases where assets had been hidden, 88 per cent involved men concealing wealth from their wives. Just two per cent involved women hiding assets. In the remainder of cases, both partners tried to conceal wealth from one another.
Family law experts say a spate of expensive, high-profile divorce cases, such as that of Sir Paul McCartney and his wife, Heather Mills McCartney, is spurring couples to hide their wealth from each other.
John Charman, the insurance magnate, was forced by the courts to pay his ex-wife a record $48 million settlement last year.
The property multi-millionaire Stuart Crossley was involved in a dispute with his wife Susan after she alleged during divorce proceedings that he had failed to tell her about millions in offshore accounts. She later dropped her claim for a financial settlement.
Andrea McLaren, the head of Grant Thornton’s matrimonial practice, said: ‘The number of couples hiding assets from one another has increased by 100 per cent since last year, which is staggering.
‘High-profile, big-money cases have scared individuals into trying to hide assets and there is now the perception that women are receiving more favourable settlements than men.’
Vanessa Lloyd Platt, a specialist in divorce law, said she had seen a surge in the number of men trying to conceal wealth from their wives.
‘Men are seeing these huge settlements and they are terrified,’ she said. ‘If they think a marriage might break down, more and more men are panicking and trying to put their capital into trusts and offshore accounts or buy assets in a third party’s name so that they are hidden from their wives.
‘It is not unheard of for women to lie but, in my experience, men are more likely to be dishonest when it comes to matrimonial disclosure.’
The succession of high-profile divorce cases has also seen a surge in the number of couples drawing up pre-nuptial agreements. A survey of law firms found that 67 per cent reported taking on more pre-nuptial work in the past year.