Marcus Dearle

“When a relationship breaks down our focus is not just on asset protection; it is about family protection. We work to reduce the potential for damage to future family relationships. Our focus is on what is best for the family as a whole.” Marcus Dearle, Partner and Head of Family Asset Protection, Private Client

Divorce, Dissolution & Family Asset Protection

The breakdown of any relationship has the potential to cause long-term financial and emotional conflict and damage. For family business owners and entrepreneurs divorce is the greatest single commercial exposure they face.

Our team’s focus is not just on asset protection – it is about family protection – implementing acrimony-busting strategies and reducing the potential for damage to future family relationships – particularly with children. Our lawyers were instrumental in educating judges and other lawyers on the Parenting after Parting initiative brought into England by Resolution and remain committed to dealing with complex children cases in a pragmatic, sensible and, where possible, collaborative way. Our role is to help you secure the best possible outcome, in the widest sense, for you and your children either through negotiated settlement or when necessary in court.

Our Family Asset Protection team often approach matters from a corporate perspective, advising in the context of an actual or potential divorce being treated as a commercial risk with significant consequences for the family’s corporate assets. We embrace new technology and innovation, with our own in-house forensic accounting and data processing, hosting and document review capability. We are leaders in the field in the use of predictive coding technology utilising Artificial Intelligence for electronic disclosure, meaning we don’t have to sift through thousands of documents – and so save significant costs for our clients.

High-net worth and ultra-high-net worth clients rely on us for responsible, pragmatic and measured advice delivered with emotional intelligence - where the human aspects of a case are not underestimated or ignored.

Our team have experience dealing with the particular issues faced by LGBT* clients and alternative families where there is a lack of decided case law. As a firm, we are committed to LGBT* inclusion, and were recently named in Stonewall’s top 10 most LGBT* inclusive places to work.

Our team help on all aspects of relationship breakdown, including:

  • Divorce, dissolution and separation
  • Divorce forum disputes
  • International and complex divorce cases
  • Contested financial remedy cases - including cases involving offshore trusts and business structures
  • Civil partnerships, LGBT* clients and alternative families
  • Children disputes
  • Cohabitation
  • Pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements
  • Trust and estate planning to mitigate impact of settlor or beneficiary divorce
  • Structuring businesses and shareholdings to mitigate the consequences of shareholder/owner divorce

Case studies

  • Protecting Wealth Image

    Protecting family trusts on divorce

    We helped a wife in divorce proceedings resist a claim by her husband that the assets in a number of discretionary trusts, worth in excess of £20m and including shares in her family’s business, should be considered as part of the family resources. We were able to show that although the wife was a potential beneficiary of the trusts she had not received any benefit from the trusts, either directly or indirectly, and that they clearly weren’t nuptial settlements. As a result, the assets in the family trusts were not brought into account in the financial remedy proceedings and were protected for future generations of the wife’s family.

  • Family office

    Pre-nuptial agreements can be reached amicably

    Our client, who was the beneficiary of a number of substantial family trusts, was entering into a marriage with her long-term partner who had limited assets. She was reluctant to enter into a pre-nuptial agreement but her father wanted her to in order to protect the family wealth. The emotional sensitivities around the agreement had to be handled carefully. Provision had to be made to satisfy the partner’s financial needs while ensuring the family wealth was protected in circumstances where the parties themselves were keen to ensure that they shared in any assets acquired during the marriage. The parties agreed to deal with the agreement collaboratively which involved full transparency and advice given in the presence of the other party and their lawyer; using the collaborative process ensured an agreement was reached on an amicable basis.

  • Protecting wealth image

    Getting divorced in the wrong jurisdiction can be costly

    We helped a wife in a potential jurisdiction dispute with her French husband. We had to act quickly to secure the jurisdiction of the English court where there was a pre-nuptial agreement which would have been upheld in France and which provided the wife with less than she would have obtained under English law.

  • Protect image

    Helping protect children from emotional abuse

    We helped a mother prove that the children’s father had been emotionally abusive to them over a sustained period of time. This meant that safeguards were then in place which allowed the father to continue to see the children and spend time with them while ensuring that the children’s safety was paramount.

  • Gaining wealth image

    A record HK$1.2 billion Hong Kong divorce settlement

    We led the international team representing a solicitor, Florence Tsang, in a landmark divorce case, securing the highest ever litigated divorce award in Hong Kong’s history, involving assets of almost US$1 billion. Most of the six week High Court trial was heard in public, and the case eventually went to Hong Kong’s supreme court, the Court of Final Appeal. It has been the main catalyst for a heightened interest in responsible asset preservation planning in Hong Kong and Asia – and particularly in the use of pre- and post-nuptial agreements.

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