Supreme Court sinks its teeth into cheat’s charter

15th October 2015

Two women who claim they were misled by their ex-husbands and should get more money in their divorce settlements have won their Supreme Court fight.

The cases highlight the harder stance taken by the courts and will serve as a warning to anyone who may not have been as forthcoming as they should have been in their own divorce settlement - no matter how long ago.

"What is interesting about this case is that the Supreme Court is standing up to spouses who deceive the court and is making it quite clear that such actions undermine the very foundation on which an order has been made," explains Adam Maguire, an expert in family law at Midlands based solicitors, Higgs & Sons.

"This could result in parties seeking to undo orders years down the line if the facts as disclosed at the time of an order turn out to be untrue.

"This, in itself, is not a new principle. "However, failing to disclose may well now have far more serious consequences for the non-discloser - the court has bared its teeth."

In the cases of Sharland v Sharland and Gohil v Gohil, each wife claimed that their husbands hid the true extent of their wealth when the financial orders were made. Today's ruling by the Supreme Court upheld their claims.  Both of the cases will now return to the High Court.

Adam Maguire continues: "Both cases are important because, at the Court of Appeal, it was held that the financial orders made would not be interfered with, despite the fraud and material non-disclosure. This was on the basis that the same orders may still have been made, had the true facts been known. This seemed to many to be unconscionable, as the husbands were effectively 'getting away with it' and it reinforced the notion of a 'cheat's charter' in the divorce courts."

However, the Supreme Court has now allowed the wives in both cases to 'undo' those orders.

"The media reports are naturally focusing on the wives winning, but the important question is what does this mean for them? While they may have won their arguments on principle (and at significant cost) and they are now going back to the High Court to have their claims heard, neither of them have actually been awarded more money.

"Despite the practical difficulties these wives may now face, the decisions seem to be a common sense victory in that a husband who has failed to disclose in accordance with his duties to the court, or who has acted fraudulently should not be seen to 'win' and that wives in such circumstances should be able to 'have another go'."

"Justice should not only be done, but be seen to be done."

For more information on matters relating to divorce, separation and other related matters, please contact Adam Maguire at Higgs & Sons, 01384 327302


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