On 14th October 2015, the UK Supreme Court handed
down judgment in the two cases of Sharland v Sharland and
Gohil v Gohil. The cases were similar as they concerned
two women who had reached divorce settlements but who later found
out that their husbands had misrepresented their finances.
The principal legal consideration for the Supreme Court in both
cases was whether an order made in the absence of full and frank
disclosure should only be set aside in cases where the Court would
have made a substantially different order if proper disclosure had
in fact taken place.
All seven Supreme Court Judges overturned the Court of
Appeal's decisions in both cases and unanimously held that
dishonesty or fraud during divorce proceedings and a failure to
disclose an accurate picture of all financial assets provide
grounds for reopening cases and renegotiating settlements.
Sharland v Sharland
Upon application by Mrs. Sharland, it was held at first instance
that Mr. Sharland had lied to the Court about the value of a
software business claiming it was worth £75m on the basis
that there was no plan for public sale when in fact, he had been
actively preparing an initial public offering reportedly with a
value closer to £1bn. On appeal by Mr. Sharland, the Court of
Appeal subsequently found that although his non-disclosure was
deliberate and dishonest, the order in the financial proceedings
would not have been substantially different because Mrs. Sharland
had received a far greater share of the liquid assets.
On appeal by Mrs. Sharland, the Supreme Court disagreed with the
Court of Appeal's reasoning. In giving the lead judgment,
Deputy President Baroness Hale concluded that Mrs. Sharland had
been "deprived of her right to a full and fair hearing of
her claims" and held that the same order would not have
been made in the absence of Mr. Sharland's fraud. Additionally,
she differentiated family proceedings from ordinary civil
proceedings on the following bases: (i) a consent order derives its
authority from the Court and not from the consent of the parties;
(ii) the duty of full and frank disclosure always arises; and (iii)
the consent of the parties must be valid and if there is a reason
which vitiates a party's consent, there may also be good reason
for the Court to set aside a consent order.
Gohil v Gohil
In 2004, Mrs. Gohil had agreed to accept £270,000 plus a
car from her ex-husband in full and final settlement of her
divorce. The financial order recorded as a recital that Mrs. Gohil
believed that Mr. Gohil had not provided full and frank disclosure.
In fact, Mr. Gohil was subsequently convicted of fraud and money
laundering to the tune of £25m and sentenced to 10 years
after admitting the charges.
In 2007, Mrs. Gohil applied to set aside the 2004 consent order
on the grounds of Mr. Gohil's serious material non-disclosure,
fraud and misrepresentation and sought to admit fresh evidence on
account of her attendance at his criminal trial. Mrs. Gohil's
application was granted at first instance but subsequently
overturned by the Court of Appeal who ruled that the evidence from
the criminal process was not material upon which the Judge could
rely and that it was not properly admissible in the family
proceedings because the Court had not conducted a full evaluation
of the evidence. On appeal by Mrs. Gohil, the Supreme Court
unanimously allowed her appeal and set aside the final settlement
order from her divorce proceedings on the basis that Mr. Gohil had
fraudulently failed to disclose his assets.
Accordingly, both claims have been remitted back to the High
Court for further consideration.
The issues raised are likely to have implications in many other
cases and it seems inevitable that the floodgates could open as
other parties who feel that their ex-spouses failed to disclose all
their assets in an effort to reduce their financial award on
divorce seek to reopen their cases and challenge their existing
My friend was married to a Muslim man and they had a daughter together before he divorced her. He recently passed away, leaving another daughter from his first wife, whom he divorced before marrying my friend.
On 12 April 2016 the States of Jersey voted to update the Island's customary law and statutory rules governing the administration of property belonging to children.
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