Getting my divorce settled

Freezing Orders - What Are They and How Do They Work?

Going through a divorce can be a painful and highly stressful time, especially when it comes to sorting out the financial side of things.  Acrimonious break-ups often result in one party disputing the amount that should be awarded to the other, and this can lead to spiteful actions.  For example, one person might try to spend as much of the money held in a joint bank account as possible, simply to prevent their ex from receiving it. 

If you find yourself in such a predicament during your divorce, a Mareva injunction or freezing order might be helpful.  But what is a freezing order and how can it help you?  Read on to find out more.

What is a freezing order?

A freezing order is designed to stop one party from disposing of any assets, jointly or individually held, until the divorce has been finalised or a financial dispute concluded.  Freezing orders apply to assets held at home and abroad.

Freezing orders cover any form of asset including:

  • bank accounts
  • cash
  • property
  • awards of damages for personal injury
  • savings plans

Pending assets, such as an imminent bonus award that one party might be expecting to receive, are also covered.

The court's involvement

Freezing orders are usually made by the court.  In order to make a freezing order, the court must be satisfied that one party is intending to dispose of an asset with the express intention of denying the other person from gaining any financial benefit from that asset.  Solid evidence of a person's intentions to dispose of assets 'maliciously' must be provided to the court in order for a freezing order to be granted and your divorce lawyer will advise you further on this. 

A freezing order granted by the court will remain in place until such time as the court deems fit to rescind it, usually when the divorce and financial arrangements have been finalised.

It is possible for one party to contest a freezing order, but this should only be done following consultation with a professional family or divorce lawyer.  If someone deliberately ignores or flouts a freezing order, they can be arrested for being in 'contempt of court'.  This could result in a fine, seizure of assets, or even imprisonment.

In conclusion

If you are concerned that your former spouse is deliberately attempting to dispose of your jointly-held assets prior to the final settlement of your divorce, purely to spite you, you may be entitled to apply to the court for a freezing order in order to protect your position.  Always discuss the matter fully and frankly with an appropriately-qualified family or divorce lawyer who will be able to advise you accordingly.