Landmark divorce ruling aims to tackle dishonesty about finances

By Lenore Rice

The Supreme Court has allowed two women to have their divorce settlements revisited because of dishonesty by their spouses in respect of the total value of their assets.

Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil had originally received £10million and £270,000 divorce settlements respectively, but later learned that their husband's wealth was significantly higher than the amount disclosed during the original divorce settlement. They together brought a case to have their settlements revisited which arrived before the Supreme Court. Speaking specifically in respect of Ms Sharland in the court judgment, Lady Hale said that she had been "deprived of a full and fair hearing" as a result of the "fraud" perpetrated by her husband. Both claims can now return to the High Court following the Supreme Court decision.

The divorce solicitor representing Ms Sharland's ex-husband said that "family law is complicated and entirely discretionary", and expressed concern that the decision could result in a 'flood' of divorce settlements being challenged before the courts.

Speaking after the court decision, Ms Gohil was reluctant to view the outcome as a success, saying "there are absolutely no winners in divorce" and urged focus to be shifted to the "children of families" who find themselves in these kinds of legal battles.

It is hoped that the Supreme Court ruling will have important ramifications for future divorce hearings, and for those wanting to review previous settlements. Divorce solicitors have often expressed concern at how easy it is for spouses to give a dishonest account of their wealth, and the implications that fraud has for maintenance, especially when there are young children involved. The decision should mean that a settlement can be ripped up and would have to be re-negotiated if it was found that there was dishonesty by one of the spouses in respect of their assets.

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