October 14, 2015

Women win divorce settlement appeal at Supreme Court

In a landmark divorce ruling earlier today, two women who say they were misled by their ex-husbands and should get more money in their divorce settlements have won their Supreme Court fight.

Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil claim the men hid the true extent of their wealth when the deals were made.

Ms Sharland, from Wilmslow in Cheshire, accepted £10m in her 2010 divorce from her husband Charles, a software entrepreneur, believing this represented half of his wealth. Under the settlement, she would also receive 30% of the proceeds of shares held by her husband in his company, when he sold them. It later transpired he had lied about his company's value - which the financial press estimated to be worth about £600m - as well as plans to float it on the stock market.

Ms Gohil, from north London, accepted £270,000 and a car as a settlement when she divorced her husband Bhadresh in 2002. In 2010, Mr Gohil was convicted of money laundering and jailed for 10 years. At his criminal trial, evidence revealed he had failed to disclose his true wealth during divorce proceedings.

Giving the judgement of the court, Lady Hale said Ms Sharland had been "deprived of a full and fair hearing" because of "her husband's fraud".

This is a common sense decision – if a party fails to fully or fairly disclose their financial situation by either undervaluing assets or deliberately hiding them, the other party should be able to reopen the case when the true financial situation comes to light. However it is always a very difficult decision as to how to balance escalating court costs against pursuing unknown hidden or undervalued assets.

It will be interesting to see whether this ruling will pave the way for many more divorcees to seek to renegotiate their divorce settlements and how successful they will be.

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