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Kara Swift
Kara Swift
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Supreme Court to hear double divorce challengeSupreme Court to hear double divorce challenge

Date:4 JUN 2015

Wives deliberately misled by ex-husbands seek new divorce settlements

Two women who were duped into accepting 'unfair' divorce settlements, based on false information provided by their ex-husbands, are to ask the Supreme Court to tackle dishonesty in family proceedings and overturn their court orders in a three-day hearing starting Monday, 8 June 2015.

Both Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil are asking the Supreme Court to set aside their divorce settlements on the basis that their husbands were dishonest and deliberately misled them and the courts during the original hearings.

It is the first time in a generation that the highest court in the land will hear cases on this issue. Specialist divorce lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, representing both women, hope that judges will seize the opportunity to show that dishonesty will not be tolerated in the family courts.

Ros Bever, a specialist family and divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell leading the legal challenges on behalf of both women, said:

'Both cases raise serious issues about how the courts should handle situations where information shared with the court and used to agree a divorce settlement is later found to be false or incomplete. We believe the position that both women find themselves in is unfair and that is why we are taking their cases to the Supreme Court.

To both women these cases are about a matter of principle and justice. Surely most people would hate to be in a situation where their former partner has been able to withhold information during their divorce proceedings; and for there to be no opportunity to challenge this when new information comes to light. The current situation sends out completely the wrong message in what is and is not acceptable in terms of disclosing financial information.

Sadly it is often only the larger cases where there are the funds available to take such cases to the appeal courts. However the issues in these latest cases do not apply only to those where there are large sums at stake; the application is far more wide reaching. The decisions will affect those people with more modest assets and sums involved which is why they are so important.

I feel for those who aren't able to fund their cases because they can't get legal aid and have no other means of getting help. Separation and divorce is stressful enough without having to worry about whether or not you can afford to go to court. As a result, many people might be forced into sitting back and accepting what they have been told even if they are suspicious about the veracity of their former partner's disclosure.

Dishonesty in any legal proceedings should not be tolerated, the family court should not be an exception and we look forward to putting our cases forward to the Supreme Court judges.'

Sharland case background

Alison Sharland, 48, from Cheshire, agreed what she believed was a 50/50 split in her divorce settlement after 17 years of marriage. But it later became apparent that her ex-husband Charles had misled her and the courts over the value of his business and his plans for a future IPO flotation. Instead of being valued at between £31 and £47m, his Appsense business was reported in the financial press as being ready to float at a value of $1bn.

At the Court of Appeal the judges agreed that his non-disclosure had been deliberate but two of the three believed they should not overturn the original settlement because although his evidence was 'seriously misleading' it would not had led to a significantly different outcome. Mrs Sharland is now challenging that judgment in the Supreme Court and is asking judges to set aside the original settlement.

Barristers Martin Pointer QC from 1 Hare Court and Peter Mitchell from 29 Bedford Row will represent Mrs Sharland during the hearing.

Gohil case background

In 2004, two years after her divorce, Varsha Gohil, 50, from London, found out that her husband Bhadresh had not fully disclosed his finances during their divorce leading her to accept £270,000 and a car as settlement. He was convicted of fraud offences and jailed for 10 years in 2010 and during the course of the criminal trial, further evidence of the extent of his intentional non-disclosure in the original divorce proceedings emerged.

In June 2012 Justice Moylan sitting in the High Court ruled that her husband had failed to properly disclose his financial circumstances and agreed to scrap the settlement. However her husband's lawyers then took the case to the Court of Appeal which ruled in his favour saying that because the courts were not allowed to use evidence from the husband's criminal trial, held in open court but not released by the crown prosecution service, they couldn't therefore prove that he was being dishonest in the original proceedings.

Barristers Sally Harrison QC and Samantha Hillas, both from St John's Buildings will represent Mrs Gohil at the Supreme Court.

Mr Sharland's solicitors, James Brown and Beth Wilkins at JMW LLP, said:

'The Supreme Court has the responsibility of considering the respective arguments in Mr and Mrs Sharland's divorce.

We simply believe it would be inappropriate to prejudice those very important deliberations by taking relevant arguments to the media before they are presented to the Court.

We are confident, however, that the Supreme Court judges will follow the example of their colleagues in the High Court and the Court of Appeal in agreeing that the provision made by Mr Sharland for both his family and his ex-wife was fair and reasonable.'