What an exciting day yesterday was for family lawyers. At long last the Supreme Court, the highest court in the country, decided that not being entirely honest about the financial situation in divorce cases is not to be tolerated, condoned or ignored. This is all thanks to two ex-wives who won their battles to set aside their divorce settlements because their ex-husbands had not supplied the relevant financial information, demonstrating that dishonesty will not be tolerated in the family courts.
The decision by the Supreme Court granted Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil the right to challenge their respective divorce settlements after the Lord Justices unanimously found that their husbands misled the courts in their original hearings. The reason why this judgment is so important is because the Court of Appeal had previously refused the ex-wives permission to challenge their respective settlements and appeared to be condoning the behaviour of their devious husbands.
This sends an important message to anyone involved in financial proceedings, where the court decides how to split money and property of a divorcing couple. No matter what your financial position is, lying about your financial circumstances will not be tolerated. If it is found that a settlement was entered into based on a lie or misrepresentation the settlement could be brought back to court and challenged many years later.
Giving judgment in Alison Sharland’s case, Lady Hale said “It would be extraordinary if the victim of a fraudulent misrepresentation in a matrimonial case was in a worse position than the victim of a fraudulent misrepresentation in an ordinary contract case, including a contract to settle a civil claim.” She also commented that it was clear that the judge would have made a different order than the one he gave in the absence of fraud and thus the case should return to court.
A good family lawyer is well positioned to advise on such cases and whether there are merits of bringing such settlements back before the court to be challenged.