Dishonesty and Divorce don’t mix
15 October 2015 by Kate Taylor
The Supreme Court has unanimously allowed the appeals of two women duped into accepting ‘unfair’ divorce settlements from their former husbands indicating that both cases would return to the High Court. Alison Sharland, who accepted £10m in her divorce, and Varsha Gohil, who received £270,000, say the men hid the extent of their wealth when the deals were made.
Mrs Sharland had agreed to a 50/50 split in her divorce settlement following 17 years of marriage. However, it later became apparent that her ex-husband had misled her and the courts over the value of his business. Instead of being valued at between £31m and £47m, it was reported in the financial press as being ready to float at a value of $1bn. Similarly, Mrs Gohil discovered that her husband had not fully disclosed his finances during their divorce.
It is believed that the ruling could pave the way for many more people to seek to renegotiate their divorce settlements. Jo Edwards, chair of family law organisation Resolution, said the judgment was a clear indicator that anything less than full and frank disclosure to the court will not be tolerated. ‘This has significant implications for other cases where assets are suspected of having been concealed, and could see many other recently finalised cases being reopened.’
Jo added, ‘A few extra million pounds may be felt objectively to make little difference to Mrs Sharland’s standard of living, but access to a share in concealed assets could make a huge difference in smaller money cases that are heard by judges every day. This is even more important where, on the face of it, the assets available are not enough to meet the parties’ needs.’
After the hearing, Ms Sharland said she was ‘relieved’ and Ms Gohil said there were ‘no winners in divorce’. The BBC’s legal correspondent Clive Coleman said it was an ‘incredibly significant ruling’ that meant a division of the parties’ financial assets had to be based on a ‘valid agreement.’
He stated, ‘If one of the parties is dishonest, if they are misleading about what their assets are, then this is a very clear signal that the other party can go back to court, can have the agreement set aside and can have the whole thing considered again.’
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