Supreme Court rules against “dishonest” divorcing husbands
Alison Sharland, 48, and Varsha Gohil, 50, have won their appeals in England’s highest court against orders made after their respective former husbands misled them, and the court, about the true value of their assets.
Mrs Sharland had accepted a settlement of £10 million in cash and properties in what she was led to believe was a 50:50 split of assets with her ex. It later emerged that his business, in which he was the majority shareholder, was heading for a stock market flotation and potentially valued at over £650 million, although at the time the court was told that it was worth between £31m and £47m. He failed to inform the court of the potential flotation, which did not actually proceed.
The court of appeal found that his non-disclosure had been deliberate, but decided by two to one that they should not overturn the original settlement because although his evidence was “seriously misleading” it would not have led to a significantly different outcome at the time, as the flotation did not proceed. Mrs Sharland claimed that had she known the company was potentially so much more valuable, she would not have agreed the settlement.
Mrs Gohil’s case against her ex, who was described as “an out and out rogue” and was later imprisoned for money laundering offences, had seen her settle her case by agreement. However it was later discovered that Mr Gohil’s evidence failed to disclose the full extent of his assets.
Michelle Grove from GA Solicitors’ family law team comments:
“It may seem obvious that the courts should not allow these husbands to get away with lying. However, the existing case law seemed to say that there were quite strict limits on when and how a court could take this into consideration. What the Supreme Court has said is that misleading the court is a very serious matter, and people who mislead the court cannot use complicated legal arguments to escape being held responsible for their own actions. Lying to the court is always wrong and will not be tolerated.
“These Supreme Court judgements make it very clear that a spouse who lies, and thinks they have got away with it, is now likely to find themselves back before the court whenever the true facts come to light.
“The court imposes a duty on the spouses to tell the truth, even when that may adversely affect their case, and they cannot escape that legal obligation, even if they persuade their ex to accept their story at the time. The court will not support a cheat’s charter.”