We recently reported on an appeal to the UK Supreme Court to consider the impact of fraudulent non-disclosure in divorce cases. Varsha Cohil and Alison Sharland sought an investigation into the concealment of their husbands’ wealth and assets, claiming they had been ‘duped’ into accepting far less than was available during financial settlements.
Both women received a settlement from their ex-husbands but later discovered their assets to be worth far more than was disclosed during divorce. Following an investigation, the Supreme Court has unanimously allowed Mrs Sharland’s appeal. Applications for financial relief will now be returned to the Family Division of the High Court.
In judgement of the case, Lady Hale stated: “It is the parties’ duty to make full and frank disclosure of all relevant information to one another and to the court. […] The present case is one of fraud. […] On the facts of this case it is clear that the judge would not have made the order he did, when he did, in the absence of Mr Sharland’s fraud, and the consent order should have been set aside.”
Chair of family law organisation Resolution, Jo Edwards, commented on the judgement:
“The success of Mrs Sharland and Mrs Gohil today is a clear indicator that anything less than full and frank disclosure of assets in divorce cases will not be tolerated by the courts, where this has an outcome on the order that the court would otherwise have made. This has significant implications for other cases where assets are suspected of having been concealed, and could see many other recently finalised cases being reopened.
“It is arguably in these cases, rather than the dealings of the multi-millionaire Sharlands, that the importance of this judgment lies. A few extra million pounds may be felt objectively to make little difference to Mrs Sharland’s standard of living, but access to a share in concealed assets could make a huge difference in smaller money cases that are heard by judges every day. This is even more important where, on the face of it, the assets available are not enough to meet the parties’ needs.
“This is why Resolution is pushing for reform of how the assets and income on divorce are approached: we want to see a fairer, more transparent system.”
No matter what the circumstances, it is always best to take an open approach to divorce – by hiding or falsifying any aspect of your situation, you are likely to find yourself having to explain your reasons for doing so, increasing the time, money and stress involved. Family lawyer Frances Lindsay explains the importance of being honest about your assets and situation during separation: “Often clients feel that it is unfair to have to disclose assets that were acquired before marriage or inherited, and may hope that if they leave something out no one will notice. If there is anything that can be classified as a non-matrimonial asset it can be considered and, if appropriate, taken out of the equation. The point of disclosing everything is to enable fair negotiations to take place. Non-disclosure starts things off on the wrong foot; the other side will be immediately suspicious and negotiations become fraught and often fruitless, leaving an application to the court the only way to resolve the matter.”
For advice and legal support during divorce and separation, get in touch with the experienced family law solicitors at Frances Lindsay & Co. We cover the whole of the Thames Valley and London, including Maidenhead, Beaconsfield, Henley, Gerrards Cross, Marlow, Windsor and High Wycombe.Tags: divorce lawyer Buckinghamshire, divorce solicitor Berkshire, divorce thames valley, divorce windsor, non-disclosure