Two recent divorce cases hit the headlines after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil, both of whom had applied to reconsider their divorce settlements.
Whilst it may be difficult to overturn a divorce settlement, these two cases have now made it easier. If a spouse can prove that their ex-husband or ex-wife has failed to disclose the true value of their finances, a re-examination of the settlement or order will be the course of action taken by the Court.
The first case – Alison Sharland
Alison Sharland was married to her now ex-husband for 17 years. At the time of their divorce, she agreed to a division of the couple’s assets.
After their divorce she discovered that her husband’s business was not worth between £31 million and £47 million as stated during the proceedings, but was in fact being prepared to be marketed at £656 million. She therefore asked the court to set aside the original divorce settlement she had agreed.
However, when her claim ended up in front of the Court of Appeal, the court stated that it would have been unlikely that Ms Sharland would have received a bigger settlement even if her husband had been more honest about the value of his business. The Court of Appeal did acknowledge that her husband’s evidence was seriously misleading.
She decided to appeal that decision and took the claim to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided that Ms Sharland had not had a full and fair hearing. Her ex-husband had deceived the court and the original settlement would not have been made, if all the information had been known to her and to the Judge.
The second case – Varsha Gohil
Meanwhile, in the second claim, Ms Gohil had discovered, two years after her divorce in 2004, evidence that her ex-husband had not been completely truthful about his finances.
The evidence she had discovered was from a Criminal Court case brought against her ex-husband, where he was convicted of fraud and money laundering. Again, like Ms Sharland, the Court of Appeal rejected her claim as the evidence from her ex-husband’s criminal proceedings could not be used in determining whether her settlement should be overturned and as such this left her no way to prove her claim.
She did not accept this and she too appealed the decision and continued her claim in the Supreme Court. Like Ms Sharland’s case, the Supreme Court dismissed the Court of Appeal’s decision. In Ms Gohil’s case, the Supreme Court stated that the Court of Appeal had taken an incorrect approach to the quality of the other evidence and therefore her claim for further money should proceed.
While these cases have generated a lot of interest, not disclosing financial information has always been grounds to revisit an order or agreement.
It is clear that the Courts will not tolerate dishonesty or any concealment of relevant information. It has always been the case that the duty to disclose is on the party with the knowledge of the information and they cannot blame the other party for not looking hard enough for the information.
Posted on October 19, 2015