This week, the Supreme Court found in favour of two women whose ex-husband’s lied about the extent of their wealth during the divorce process.
The rulings could make many divorcees nervous about the legitimacy of their settlement agreements, even if their divorce took place years ago.
Because of the landmark decisions, Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil – who both claim that they were deliberately misled by their ex-husbands – are now likely to see their divorce settlements revised and increased.
While the women initially agreed to financial orders, it later transpired that their ex-partners had failed to make a full and frank disclosure as to the scope of their assets. In the case Ms Sharland, she believed that the £10 million settlement agreed represented an equal share of the overall assets. However, she later discovered that her husband had lied to her about the value of his IT company, the majority of which he retained.
Similarly, while Ms Gohil accepted her husband’s claims that he only had a modest income and no assets, his subsequent conviction for money laundering revealed the true extent of his wealth.
Because of these revelations, the women argued that the original settlements should be overturned as the money they were awarded was not as much as it would have been, had all the facts been known. However, the High Court and Appeal Court went on to assert that the agreements should hold, despite accepting that the men did lie.
Taking their battle all the way to the highest court in the land – following four months of deliberation – the Supreme Court has now found in favour of the women and will allow their claims to be re-analysed.
Significantly, this decision opens the floodgates for thousands of similar claims from aggrieved ex-spouses.
Welcome news for women (and men) who have fallen foul of wealthier partners hiding their assets during divorce and separation proceedings, financial agreements simply must be based on absolute transparency or risk being overturned.
Indeed, should one party be dishonest, the way is now open for the other to apply to the court to have any existing agreement set aside and pursue an increased settlement. In short, if you are going through a divorce you cannot lie to the court and expect to get away with it.
However, to make a claim, new information must be available to prove deception and any lies must be to an extent that a judge would have made a different order at the time of settlement.
Of course, dishonesty in any legal proceedings should not be tolerated, and this latest ruling demonstrates that the Family Courts will take such deception very seriously indeed. Thousands of husbands and wives who have tried to hide their wealth from their ex-partners could now be made to pay up.
At Linder Myers we can assist you in pursuing a claim against a dishonest spouse, or defend you against such claims to protect you and your assets now and in the future.Find out more about our Family department