An increasingly common tactic used by divorcing couples is to place funds in their child’s name in the hope that it will shield the money from the eyes of the court. Generally speaking, money held in a child’s account legally belongs to the child. However, there are some circumstances when children’s savings might be included in the matrimonial asset pot to be divided. Read on for more information.
Firstly, what counts as a child’s account?
When setting up an account for a young child, the account will be opened in trust by an adult – usually the parent. But it is not unusual for different providers to have their own rules about the relationship the child and adult trustee must have.
Children’s accounts or savings include:
- Child Trust Funds
- Junior ISAs
- National Savings
- A bank/building society account in the child’s name
- Children’s Bonds
Any money deposited in an account belongs to the child, and not the trustee, but the trustee can withdraw the funds at any time.
Can money be hidden in a child’s account?
Parents should not attempt hide money in their child’s account. Either parent believed to be concealing assets by putting them out of reach of their spouse in their child’s bank account, should know the court can issue an injunction preventing dealings with the accounts in question until the financial agreement as part of the divorce is reached.
What are the circumstances when a child’s savings would be included in the matrimonial asset pot?
Children’s savings may be considered as part of the matrimonial asset pot and therefore included for consideration under specific circumstances, but this is typically not the norm. Savings or bank accounts of children may be used in divorce in the following situations:
1. Inadequate Financial Support
If one parent demonstrates that their needs cannot be adequately met by the matrimonial assets, the court may examine whether the child’s savings can be introduced to ensure fairness between the parties
2. Trusts and Control:
Children’s savings held in trust may be included if one spouse has control over these savings and can potentially use them for their own benefit. The court may scrutinise the level of control and the intended purpose of the savings.
3. Financial Misconduct:
In cases where one spouse has engaged in financial misconduct, such as hiding assets or dissipating marital funds, the court may consider including children’s savings to rectify the imbalance.
4. Overall Financial Position:
The court will assess the overall financial position of both parties, and if it is determined that including children’s savings is necessary to achieve a fair settlement, they may be included.
In the majority of cases, children’s savings are considered separately from the matrimonial asset pot, with the primary focus being the child’s welfare and financial needs. However, the court’s discretion will be exercised based on the specific circumstances of each case, always prioritising the child’s best interests and well-being.
What can I do to prevent my ex using our child’s account to hide money?
If you are concerned that your ex may take, or hide money, in your child’s account, you could ask the banking organisation to put a temporary freeze on the account. This keeps assets in a position of stasis until it can be decided what to do.
It is important to note that the court can set aside a divorce settlement if it is found that one party has hidden assets during the divorce process. The wronged party may also receive a higher share of the assets alongside compensation, and a costs order may be made against the offending party. Any assets transferred into another account/individuals name with the intention of hiding them within 3 years of a divorce can be set aside as an improper transaction.
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