The so called ‘First Wives Club’ is led by Michelle Young, divorcee from Oxford. She is joined by Vivien Hobbs and Janna Kremen, who all feel that they have suffered unfairly at the hands of the divorce courts. Also known as the Michelle Young Foundation, their aim is to help other women avoid a similar fate.
Their mission is to highlight the injustice of non-disclosure laws, which they say, “allow the earning spouse in a divorce to make bald-face lies about their assets”.
Michelle, Vivien and Janna all claim that they have been left with ‘next to nothing’ as a result of their divorce. Their husbands, they claim, have sought to hide the truth in respect of their earnings and wealth.
Michelle herself has been involved in an extremely hostile and protracted divorce with her husband, Scot Young. Mr Young, who died in December 2014, after falling from his balcony, concealed an alleged £300 million. Within proceedings, he claimed that he had lost his entire fortune when a large property deal in Russia collapsed. Michelle was eventually awarded £20 million, but she is yet to receive any of this.
Fighting legal battles of this magnitude can be extremely expensive, costing tens of thousands in legal fees. The Michelle Young Foundation website notes that ‘the courts expect divorcing partners to make full and frank financial disclosure, but there are few, if any, penalties applied if they fail to do so’.
Janna Kremen, who also feels wronged by the system, claims that her former husband forced her to sign a Post-Nuptial Agreement just before they moved into their £4 million matrimonial home in London. The agreement limited her claim against her husband’s £75 million to just £2 million. After her husband had left her for a younger woman, Janna and her two children were forced out of the family home when he failed to meet the mortgage repayments. Janna then sought to challenge the Post-Nuptial Agreement and was actually awarded £12.5 million, after the judge ruled that the agreement was “grossly unfair”. Janna still believes that her ex-husband, who is living in Russia, is hiding millions in offshore accounts and there remains a warrant for his arrest for the non-payment of maintenance.
Vivien Hobbs claims that she too has been short-changed by the divorce courts, after her husband was awarded the majority of the matrimonial assets. Vivien claims that her husband aggressively refused to disclose his assets, which resulted in a very unfair settlement for her.
Michelle Young has now been contacted by a number of women who also feel let down by the divorce courts. The Foundation, who point out that they can help people from all social and economic backgrounds, plan to put pressure on the Government to “restore justice to an equilibrium”.
The solicitors at Myerson have had first-hand experience of cases where one party is failing to disclose assets and have been successful in applying for penal orders which have ultimately, forced the guilty party to disclose.
Jane Tenquist, Head of Family and Partner at Myerson said “Whilst there are actions which you can take to try to force your spouse to disclose their assets, there is definitely a reluctance in the family courts to actually place an offender in prison for non-disclosure and every other enforcement method would be encouraged before resorting to actual imprisonment”.
If you require any advice upon divorce, non-disclosure of assets or any other aspect of family law, please contact one of our specialist solicitors on 0161 941 4000.