Landmark ruling means divorce cases can be reopened if husbands lied about their wealth

Jessica Morris
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The UK's highest court handed down the ruling today (Source: Getty)

A landmark ruling by the Supreme Court has paved the way for divorce settlements to be renegotiated if husbands lie about their wealth.

Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohill had argued they had been misled by their former spouses as to the true extent of their wealth when their divorce claims were settled. Their cases are now due to be re-opened.

Sharland accepted a deal in 2012 from her ex-husband Charles Sharland, the chairman and founder of IT firm AppSense, which amounted to £10m in property and cash if she agreed to accept 30 per cent of proceeds from any sale of his shares in his company, which he valued at between £50m to £75m.

She then learned that he had been in discussions with investment bankers earlier in 2012 regarding plans to float AppSense, and an article in the Wall Street Journal suggested the company's value to be between $750m and $1bn.

In her judgement, Supreme Court judge Brenda Hale said Sharland had been "deprived of a full and fair hearing of her claims" because of his "fraud".

Gohill accepted £270,000 in 2004 after divorcing her ex-husband, but later discovered he had hidden his true worth from her after he was charged with money-laundering offences.

Ros Bever, a partner in family law at Irwin Mitchell, said: "These cases were about a matter of principle and justice for both women and the issues raised in the Supreme Court will have implications in many other cases, including those with less money at stake.

"It’s inevitable that other wives, husbands or civil partners who feel that they too have been misled during divorce proceedings will seek to bring their cases back to court, and we can expect to see a significant rise in the number of challenges to existing divorce settlements.

"But at the heart of these cases is a simple message: if you want finality in your divorce settlement (whether you agree it, or whether it is imposed by the court), don’t lie."

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