The Supreme Court has today handed down the judgements in the high profile cases of Sharland and Gohil.
The two ex-wives, Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil, successfully argued that their ex-husbands had misled the courts about their true wealth.
Mrs Sharland, from Wilmslow, originally settled her divorce in 2010. Her husband, a shareholder in IT company AppSense, was ordered to pay her £10million in cash and properties. It later emerged that the company was worth much more than as disclosed in court. One estimate valued the company at £656 million whereas the lawyers at the time of settlement advised the court that it was worth much more, at between £31 million and £47 million. In light of this, Mrs Sharland appealed the order all the way to the Supreme Court. Lady Justice Hale said that Mrs Sharland had been “deprived of a full and fair hearing” because of “her husband’s fraud”.
Ms Gohil, from London, divorced in 2002 and accepted £270,000 and a car in her divorce settlement in 2004. During the marriage, Ms Gohil believed that her husband had made a substantial amount of money from his partnership in an international legal firm based in Mayfair. However, on divorce, Mr Gohil submitted that he only had a very modest income and no assets. Ms Gohil appealed the original order and during the course of proceedings, her husband was convicted of money laundering offences. Luckily for Ms Gohil, the criminal proceedings revealed Mr Gohil’s true wealth.
Both cases will now be reopened and the original settlements reconsidered, with full consideration given to the husbands’ true financial positions.
Mrs Sharland, delighted at the ruling, said “I hope that their decision sends out a message to everyone going through a divorce”. Ms Gohil said she was “relieved” by the judgement but said “there are absolutely no winners in divorce and more than a thought has to be given to the children of families locked in this type of litigation”. Both thanked their dedicated legal teams profusely.
The case highlights the importance of full and frank financial disclosure on divorce, a duty which is ongoing. If a court finds that one party has failed to disclose their assets, it will be presumed that full and frank financial disclosure would have led to a different financial order being made, unless the non-disclosing party can prove otherwise.
The ruling is likely to result in a rise in appeals in similar cases, where one party suspects that their spouse has not disclosed their true wealth.
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