Supreme Court to consider how much dishonesty in divorce is acceptable

By Lenore Rice

The appeal case of Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil has begun at the Supreme Court, with both women arguing that they and the courts were misled by their ex-husbands as to the extent of their wealth when their divorce settlement was agreed.

Divorce solicitors will tell you it is not uncommon for spouses to try to 'play down' the value of their assets, and whatever semantics are employed, the truth is that dishonesty in divorce hearings is not uncommon. The Courts have previously applied a rule that the dishonesty should be "material", and that the judges would have divided the marital assets differently, but for the deception of the spouse.

Essentially, the appeal case of Sharland and Gohil is asking the Supreme Court to consider how much dishonesty the family law courts should consider acceptable - should it be a zero-tolerance approach which means the existence of any level of dishonesty should enable a spouse to seek to re-negotiate a divorce settlement, or should the approach be taken that the 'fraud' must be "significant"?

While the two divorce settlements in question involve large sums of money, the outcome of this appeal case could have very serious consequences for every-day couples with modest assets. Most divorces work toward a 50/50 split of assets, and so an accurate picture of the combined wealth of the couple is essential to ensure a fair divorce settlement. The courts have been criticised by many for being too tolerant of dishonesty when it comes to asset disclosure, and this is the first time one of the top level courts will consider the question. Understandably, divorce solicitors await the decision, which is not expected until later this year, with keen interest.

If you require legal advice from a divorce solicitor in Northern Ireland, contact Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast or Bangor by calling 0800 840 1363.

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