You are in the middle of a difficult financial divorce settlement. Your spouse is being either very slow or very unreasonable and it seems that he/she may well be hiding some financial info. When in the former home you do one of these things:
...have "just a quick look" at their emails on their PC
...grab a letter from their lawyers addressed to them
Or maybe you just receive a bank or accountant letter at your address meant for them. It sheds light on the situation.
It is hard to fail to understand how many people would keep these documents and give them to their divorce solicitor quickly. So, what is the legal and/or solicitor obligation position?
• any documents belonging to the other which have come into your possession have to be returned by your lawyer to the other solicitors. This duty exists upon request or by no later than when disclosure is given, usually before the first Court appointment.
• you are permitted to locate any documents readily accessible, without breaking anything open or committing any criminal act.
• of course, we will be able to read them and they may help in the case
BUT any correspondence or emails between your spouse and their lawyer is not covered by this approach. Those documents must never be used or even read by you or your lawyer and you should send them to your lawyer to return to the other solicitors.
The law as stated above was correct at the time of publishing. As at 29/7/10 substantial changes have occurred in case law which affect every aspect of the above. This is the judgement in question: http://www.familylaw.co.uk/system/uploads/attachments/0000/8737/IMERMAN.pdf
We now believe that if any confidential information is obtained in any way wrongfully e.g. by taking a bank statement, then it must be returned immediately and the information from it could not be used in Court.
The judgement goes in to some detail about the Court applications that you could make. That is all very well for people with large sums of money to spend on legal fees and I hope that new rules will soon come out which enable people to deal with a spouse who is hiding their assets---we don’t want this case to become a Cheats’ Charter!