Two women deceived in divorce settlements can apply for more

Two women who claim their husbands withheld the true extent of their wealth in divorce proceedings have won their appeal to be allowed to reopen their cases and apply for a better settlement.

Alison Sharland received £10m in cash and property when she divorced her husband Charles three years ago. At the time she was led to believe that his business, Appsense, was valued at between £31m and £47m.

However, reports in the media later suggested that the business was due to be floated on the stock market with Mr Sharland’s stake being valued at about £150m.

Mr Sharland denied his stake was worth that much and said he had no plans to float on the stock market.

Mrs Sharland applied to have her case reopened so she could get a better settlement that reflected the true value of her husband’s wealth. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in her favour.

Baroness Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court, said: “By the husband’s fraud and the judge’s order, she had been deprived of her right to a full and fair hearing of her claims. The case must therefore return to the family division for further directions as to how her claim is to proceed.”

The Supreme Court made a similar ruling in the case of Varsha Gohil. She accepted a £270,000 settlement when she divorced her husband in 2002. In 2007, she applied to have the case reopened on the basis that her husband had fraudulently failed to disclose his assets.

The proceedings were delayed when he was convicted of serious money-laundering offences and committed to prison. Evidence produced during his criminal trial showed that he had not disclosed his full assets during the divorce proceedings.

The Supreme Court has ruled that Mrs Gohil can reopen her case in the High Court.

Both women made brief statements after hearing the court decision.

Mrs Sharland said: “I am relieved and delighted that the Supreme Court judges have ruled in our favour. I hope that their decision sends out a message to everyone going through a divorce.

“My legal battle has never been about the money, it has always been a matter of principle. I entered into an agreement with my estranged husband thinking that it was a fair one. I believed the net result was an equal division of our assets which had accrued during our marriage and so, in my opinion, 50% was fair.”

Mrs Gohil said: “There are absolutely no winners in divorce and more than a thought has to be given to the children of families locked in this type of litigation.

“All spouses subject to deceit and deliberate financial skulduggery in a divorce owe a huge debt of gratitude to the tireless efforts of the legal team here today.”

Please contact Charles Goodbody in our Warminster office on 01985 214444, or email cgoodbody@mulaw.co.uk if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.