Very occasionally in divorce proceedings one spouse will forget to disclose one of their assets on Form E, nothing major you understand, just one of those big bricks and mortar things called a house. It’s easily done. Often, just a gentle nudge by way of an enquiring solicitor’s letter or even a court approved questionnaire if you are in the middle of financial proceedings will do the trick and get the response: “Oh, that house…”
But what can you do if the spouse swears blind that there is no other property even though you distinctly remember them whispering about it to their accountant or investment manager? What do you do if you have no idea where the property may be, not even which town it may be sitting in? You can’t do a Land Registry search unless you have a specific address. Or can you?
Here’s a little trick. Ask your spouse to help you complete a form from Land Registry called PN1 which allows a search in the Index of Proprietors’ Names. That is, it allows a search against a name and will reveal the details of any properties owned by that person. The Land Registry will not accept the form unless your spouse has provided their consent on the form. But if your spouse has nothing to hide they will be happy to complete the form and let you do the search. If they refuse, you can always ask the court to draw an adverse inference from the refusal by concluding that there is indeed something to hide In that case, if the court is on your side you can ask the court to order a search in the Index of Proprietors’ Names. This does not require your spouse’s consent.
This approach is not foolproof though. It is possible that your spouse owns the property through a company so you will need submit a search in the name of the company as well as the name of your spouse. More difficult still would be if your spouse had given funds to a private individual who has purchased the property in that individual’s name.
But despite these drawbacks, this is a useful weapon to have in the disclosure armoury.