In U.K High Court says divorce cases can be reopened if ex lied about wealth
On Wednesday The UK’s highest court allowed appeals from two women who argued that their divorce settlements should be reopened on the grounds that their husbands hid key financial information from them during their divorce cases. Their cases will now be reopened. High quality global journalism requires investment.
High quality global journalism requires investment.People who find out that their former spouses had lied about their wealth during divorce proceedings will be able to renegotiate settlements following a landmark ruling at the Supreme Court.
Family lawyers had kept a close eye on the Supreme Court case because of potential to allow people to reopen their divorce settlements if they could later prove their spouses had hidden wealth.
The courts are dealing with more and more cases where spouses fail to disclose all their assets or hide them offshore in an effort to reduce their payout in a divorce. The lower the assets disclosed to the court, the lower the divorce settlement that can be awarded.
The ruling was a victory for Alison Sharland who has fought the appeal since she was awarded a £10.35m settlement in 2012 against Charles Sharland, the Cheshire IT entrepreneur.
She had wanted to reopen the hearing into the settlement on the grounds that Mr Sharland failed to disclose talks about a possible flotation of his company to the court in 2012 when the judge was considering how much she could be awarded.
It also comes as a victory for Varsha Gohil who was awarded a Peugeot car and £270,000 after her divorce from solicitor Bhadresh Gohil, who had claimed he had modest means.
Mr Gohil was later sentenced to 10 years after admitting charges including money-laundering valued at more than £25m. Mr Gohil was linked to James Ibori, the former Nigerian state governor who was jailed in 2012. Ms Gohil argued that there had been material not disclosed at the time of her divorce settlement in 2004.
Giving her ruling on Ms Sharland’s case at the Supreme Court, Lady Hale said the divorce agreement was invalidated by her “husband’s fraud”.
“She had been deprived of her right to a full and fair hearing of her claims,” she said of Ms Sharland.
Lawyers say that the cases could “open the floodgates” for more people to renegotiate settlements if they later find out their former spouses had hidden assets or misled courts about their true financial position.
Graham Coy, partner at Mundays, said: “This is a victory for common sense and a defeat for dishonesty — it just goes to show that if you don’t put all your cards on the table when divorcing it might come back to bite you further down the line.”
The family courts have been forced to deal with more and more cases when spouses have been accused of hiding assets.
In 2013, Michelle Young was awarded £20m after divorcing her husband, Scot Young, a fixer for the super-rich, who fell to his death from his Marylebone flat last year. He had claimed he was penniless and could not afford to pay, but she alleged he was worth millions. The judge in that divorce case said in his ruling that Mr Young had “misled the court as to his finances to a very significant extent”.
In another ruling last year, Mr Justice Mostyn found that British jeweller, Dharmesh Dwarkada Bhura, who moved to Georgia in the US, was “a dishonest litigant” who “spirited away a large amount of valuable jewellery with the intention of defeating the wife’s claim for a financial remedy”.