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Is my divorce solicitor bound by confidentiality?

(25 Posts)
inabizzlefam Sun 09-Oct-16 21:39:43

Or if I tell him something that could be interpreted as incriminating, is he forced by law to pass this information on to the authorities?
would like to be prepared.

AnchorDownDeepBreath Sun 09-Oct-16 21:45:06

That's a difficult question.

Incriminating as in it's illegal? Likely to harm other people? About historic crimes?

Some things will be protected. Some will not, I don't think.

BombayBonsai Sun 09-Oct-16 21:47:52

Depends what it is really.

inabizzlefam Sun 09-Oct-16 21:57:50

It's regarding evidence of unpaid taxes.

MrsBertBibby Mon 10-Oct-16 09:25:56

Whose unpaid taxes? Your own?

Mybeardeddragonjustdied2016 Mon 10-Oct-16 09:26:52

If you admit fault your solicitor can refuse to represent you.

inabizzlefam Mon 10-Oct-16 12:11:02

Not mine no, STBXh's.

palanca Mon 10-Oct-16 14:17:01

Your solicitor has no obligation to report anyone else's tax evasion - nor do you. You need to consider carefully with your solicitor whether it is in YOUR interest to report or not. You may not blackmail the other side over this issue either .....!

pregnantat50 Mon 10-Oct-16 14:41:09

I think this is a grey area

www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/tax/2866600/Your-lawyer-cant-keep-your-secrets.html

palanca Mon 10-Oct-16 14:49:48

That article is from 2003 - the law has changed thankfully since then!

pregnantat50 Mon 10-Oct-16 15:14:59

I was advised when seeing my solicitor in relation to my split from my ex that mentioning anything about tax evasion was something they had to report. This was August 2016, and I had to sign something at the beginning of my dealings with them to agree to this, although not sure if they would have abide by it. Interestingly enough my ex was involved in tax evasion (cash in hand jobs) but I didn't mention it as it wasn't my business and my already agressive ex would have become even worse in the circumstances.

palanca Mon 10-Oct-16 15:30:02

That is not correct. The solicitor is under no duty to report anything save for child abuse issues.

The Judge however, should the issues be raised before her or him, is sort of under an obligation to report ....

MrsBertBibby Mon 10-Oct-16 15:59:20

The Proceeds of Crime Act and related legislation do in fact impose an obligation on lawyers to disclose some information despite confidentality. This is probably outlined in your client care letter. It's a complex and case specific area, but in your case, the answer is "probably not".

The judge can also report tax infractions, although they tend not to as it undermines the chances of people being truthful to them.

FTCarer Mon 10-Oct-16 16:31:25

Actually, the solicitor has a duty to the Court and if this is a financial case in divorce he/she couldn't ignore it in any financial calculations that go to settlement.

Interestingly the real issue is HMRC, as they have absolutely no right to see the details of family law cases, even if they are aware that an issue of tax evasion has been raised.

palanca Mon 10-Oct-16 16:46:09

sorry - you are all right that there is an overarching POCA duty but I have never seen this relied on re tax evasion - not like in the old days when it all first came into force and we had to report virtually every single client ....

HMRC can certainly use the info if it is "given" to them - have a look at R v K EWCA Crim 1640 - makes rather chilling reading for us lawyers¬!

MrsBertBibby Mon 10-Oct-16 18:04:31

A solicitor's duty to the Court never overrides client confidentiality though. If the client's instructions are such that the court would be mislead then the solicitor must withdraw, since the client's right to confidentiality is absolute in those circumstances.

inabizzlefam Mon 10-Oct-16 22:51:13

OMG have been completely bamboozled by legal speak!
I am trying to divorve my ex. He has been self employed for about 30 years. He is dragging his feet massively about financial settlement.....should have got my decree ab in august.
Whilst in process of leaving him i nosed about his office and found evidence of money coming into his business not declared to HMRC so i took this paperwork with me when i left. I knew how money orientated he is so thought this info might come in handy if he started being an arse, which he has.
I need him to stop stalling and get the financial settlement sorted asap. Can I use this info to get my ex to stop pissing about, sell the family home and split the money

Lilacpink40 Mon 10-Oct-16 22:54:01

My solicitor said she had to report money laundering before we spoke about finances. Mysterious money coming into business could be laundering (putting through a business to make it 'clean' again).

JaniceBattersby Mon 10-Oct-16 23:53:07

Tell him you know exactly what he's been hiding from HMRC, that you have the evidence, and if he doesn't sort out the divorce, you'll be passing it on to them by the end of October. Don't put this in writing, obviously.

Should clarify his thoughts a bit.

MrsBertBibby Tue 11-Oct-16 08:21:13

The documents you removed from his office do not belong to you. You are not entitled to retain them or copy them. Your Solicitor should send them straight back to his lawyer.

Here's an article about the law. Paragraph 10 sets it out for you.

www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed115137

pregnantat50 Tue 11-Oct-16 08:29:44

ii) If a wife does access such private documents she is not only in jeopardy of criminal penalties but also risks being civilly sued by the husband for breach of confidence and misuse of his private material.??

That pretty much sums it up x

inabizzlefam Tue 11-Oct-16 22:31:33

So I find evidence of tax evasion and I'm the one in the wrong...wow!
So I can't even use this info to "chivvy him along with divorce"?
So is this some law that prevents the wife from handing over stuff that might incriminate husband?

palanca Wed 12-Oct-16 07:44:08

You are not allowed to take or use his "confidential" material - whether it is confidential or not though depends on whether he had an expectation that you would not see it ie it is in a safe or behind a password protected wall etc
If on the other hand the documents were left around in places where either of you had access - the kitchen table for example - then the position might be different. Ask your solicitor for detailed advice.

MrsBertBibby Wed 12-Oct-16 08:27:48

Palanca, that's somewhat outdated advice. The halcyon days of Hildebrand, where anything not locked away was fair game, is pretty well gone since Imerman.

In this case though, the OP has been pretty clear. She had a good nose round his office whilst leaving him (breach of privacy), removed documents she knew were his (that is theft) and now wants to use them to get leverage.

OP I am well aware how frustrating it is, but that's what the law is. If you want to get things moving, then you need to get your application issued, which will compel him to give disclosure, and ultimately for a judge to rule if you can't agree. Not fun, but much more effective than trying to leverage him in this way.

palanca Wed 12-Oct-16 11:27:58

That is what immerman says - it specifically provides for the possibility of non confidential but personal documents. I have certainly done numerous immerman hearing games where stuff not locked away has been admissible. Having said that, you need to give your ex the chance to put in the form E first - courts will certainly not approve of jumping the gun. But yes halcyon days of documents appearing from plastic bags, copies being taken and the originals being returned are certainly over

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