Hidden assets in divorce story: Britain's top divorce lawyer comments

Almost half of family lawyers believe that those embroiled in 'big money' divorce cases are likely to conceal assets during proceedings following a key court ruling that prevents the use of secretly obtained documents in divorce cases.

Grant Thornton, the professional services firm, questioned 101 lawyers for its annual matrimonial study and found that 48 per cent believe that people were either definitely or probably likely to conceal assets as a result of a landmark Court of Appeal ruling last year. The ruling centred on the case of Lisa Tchenguiz, who has filed for divorce from her husband Vivian Imerman, a former owner of Del Monte foods.

Ayesha Vardag of Vardags (www.vardags.com) has been described in the press and by the Law Society as Britain's top divorce lawyer this year. She is best known for winning the landmark Supreme Court case of Katrin Radmacher last year (the biggest Family Law hearing in English legal history), changing the law on prenuptial agreements in the UK.

Vardag commented: "It has always been tempting for richer parties to try to conceal their assets. The Tchenguiz/Imerman judgment hands them a get out of jail free card on many of the ways we used to catch them. Lawyers have to get creative again - at our firm, we now have a former McKinsey strategist on the team to unpick asset-concealing structures and level the playing field.

"We have seen a huge rise in pre- and post-nups, and a move to post-nups as an alternative to divorce after marital crises. Radmacher paved the way for a more consensual approach to marriage and divorce, it takes us out of the courts and front-loads the decisions onto couples deciding how they will organise their lives together." 

Ayesha Vardag graduated from Cambridge University with Honours in Law and from Brussels with a Master's in European Law, working at the International Courts of Justice in the Hague and the UN(IAEA) in Vienna. She then trained and qualified as a finance lawyer at Linklaters London and Moscow on power station and diamond mine projects, before moving on to capital markets work at New York law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges. Ayesha was called to the Bar in

1999 and joined 4 New Square chambers, then crossed to family law at Sears Tooth. She founded Ayesha Vardag Solicitors, now Vardags (www.vardags.com) in 2005.