Freezing Assets to Prevent their Disposal

“You won’t see a penny of my money!”

It’s sadly a common occurrence in family proceedings concerning money. One party is so aggrieved by the breakdown of the relationship that they vow to ensure that the other party never receives any of their money, whether by way of maintenance, lump sum payment or property settlement.

And they then proceed to ensure that they make good their vow by disposing of their assets, so that they are out of the reach of the other party.

So what can the other party do to prevent this?

One answer is the freezing order. As the name suggests, the order freezes that party’s assets, preventing them from disposing of them. The order may, for example, be served upon their bank, to prevent the bank from releasing money to them. The assets will remain frozen until the conclusion of the case.

An example of the use of a freezing order occurred in a recent case that took place before Mr Justice Cobb in the Family Court in London.

The case concerned a mother’s application for financial relief for her daughter from the child’s father, who resides in the USA.

In March 2023 Mr Justice Cobb made an award requiring the father to make various payments, including providing the sum of £3.65 million for a property to be settled on the child until she attains the age of eighteen or ceases tertiary education; paying a lump sum to cover various expenditure for the benefit of the child; and making substantial periodical payments to cover the child’s maintenance, school fees and other expenses.

The father has failed to comply with the order.

The mother reported that when she met the father after the award was made he informed her that he intended not to honour the order, that she would “not see a penny” of the award, and that he had been “arranging and managing his finances for years to limit/restrict [the mother’s] ability to enforce”.

In light of this the mother applied for a worldwide freezing order against the father.

The application went before the court in November 2023, without notice to the father. Mr Justice Cobb made a freezing order in the sum of about £8.6 million. The order was subsequently served on the father’s bank in the USA.

The matter went back before the court in February this year, when the mother asked the court to continue the freezing order.

Mr Justice Cobb found that it was clear that the father was ignoring the original order, was determined not to comply with the award, and would dispose of his assets unless he is restrained by the court from disposing of them. Accordingly, he continued the freezing order.

You can read the full report of the case here.

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Image: Lenka