12 Oct 2015
Mark Harper comments in the Press Association and Midlands Express & Star
Ex-wives await ruling over divorce settlements
Brian Fowler | Press Association
Two ex-wives who say they should get more money after divorcing should hear this week whether they have won a fight in the Supreme Court.
Alison Sharland, who is in her late 40s and from Wilmslow, Cheshire, and Varsha Gohil, who is in her early 50s and from north London, both say their ex-husbands misled judges about how much they were worth.
Both want their claims re-analysed at fresh hearings. Their ex-husbands disagree.
A panel of Supreme Court judges analysed the disputes at a three-day hearing in June and is due to publish rulings on Wednesday.
Judges in the High Court and Court of Appeal have already analysed the issues.
Lawyers say the cases raise questions of general public importance and could affect other divorced couples.
Supreme Court justices were told that both women had reached agreements with their ex-husbands after beginning litigation.
Both subsequently thought that they had been misled.
Mrs Sharland had accepted more than £10 million in cash and properties from ex-husband Charles three years ago, justices were told.
Mrs Gohil had accepted £270,000 plus a car from her husband Bhadresh more than a decade ago.
Justices heard that Mrs Sharland claimed that her ex-husband misled her over the value of a business.
Lawyers said she had thought the business was valued at between £31 million and £47 million but reports in the financial press put the value at £1 billion.
Mrs Gohil’s husband had been convicted of money laundering following their divorce, justices heard.
Neither woman has yet said how much they now want.
But both say their claims should be re-examined and all evidence now available considered.
Solicitor Mark Harper, a partner at law firm Hughes Fowler Carruthers, said the ruling would have implications.
“If the Supreme Court say that any non-disclosure means an agreement can be overturned, there will be a flood of cases where wives, usually, will seek more money,” said Mr Harper, who specialise in legal disputes relating to divorce.
“Both spouses giving full disclosure of their finances goes to the very heart of asset division on divorce.”
He added: “This test case will have wide ranging implications for many divorces up and down the country.”
Lawyer James Brown, a partner with JMW Solicitors – which represents Mr Sharland, said: “At the moment, where there’s an allegation of or actual non-disclosure, the victim has to establish that what they have found out would make a difference.
“Some say that that’s a sensible balance between people being deprived of their entitlement and vexatious litigants who want to revisit historic proceedings driven by emotion rather than fairness.
“If the court finds in favour of Mrs Sharland, there’s a risk of the floodgates opening in respect of litigants seeking to review the outcome of earlier proceedings.
“If Mr Sharland is successful, it will no doubt be met with howls that the court has endorsed a so-called ‘cheat’s charter’.
“However, it is our view that the existing test strikes a balance between fairness and floodgates.”
Lawyer Ros Bever, who works for law firm Irwin Mitchell – which represented the two women, had said in June: “Dishonesty in any legal proceedings should not be tolerated; the family court should not be an exception. To both women these cases are about a matter of principle and justice.”