The jailing of property tycoon Scot Young at the high court in London for a 'deliberate' and 'flagrant' refusal to prove how he lost a fortune estimated to be worth £400 million signals that failing to co-operate in disclosing assets in divorce cases will no longer be met with tepid and ineffective sanctions.

The decision came shortly after the former head of the Ford plant at Dagenham was jailed for two years for a contempt of court arising from divorce proceedings.
Unearthing and proving the existence of hidden assets has long been one of the major challenges facing divorce lawyers.

While the courts in Scotland have a range of powers at their disposal, and orders to disclose documents which a spouse says have not been revealed are commonplace, the notion of jailing an evasive and deceitful litigant is a warning for anyone intent on treating divorce proceedings as a game of cat and mouse.

As long ago as 2003 Lady Smith sitting in the Court of Session warned 'matrimonial litigation is not a game and the days have long since gone when failures by parties to a divorce action to disclose and, where possible, vouch, relevant assets can be justified.'

Last year, new rules were introduced to the sheriff court to promote early and frank disclosure of assets. Now, anyone raising divorce proceedings involving a financial dispute is required to complete and sign a form detailing their assets and resources at the very start of the action.

It remains to be seen how judges in Scotland will respond when evidence is brought to light that a party has salted away funds and failed to disclose their existence to the court. The prospect of time in jail could be expected to provide an effective deterrent.



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