The decision of the Supreme Court on 14th October in the case of Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil has opened the floodgates for retrospective reassessments of divorce settlements. They have also highlighted the need for honesty in financial disclosure during divorce settlement negotiations.
Both Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil felt that they had been badly treated by their ex-husbands who had not been honest with them and the Court in their financial dealings. Whilst no decisions were made about the eventual settlement that both women should receive the cases were sent back to the High Court for reviews of the settlements to take place and potentially far greater awards being made to both of them. The Court assumes that both parties in a divorce settlement will be honest and provide full details of their financial positions and assets. However there has always been a reluctance to reopen settlements concluded previously because of the need for certainty.
Neale Grearson Head of the Clapham & Collinge Family Department commented as follows:
"In the appeals of Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil decisions were made on the facts of their particular situation. The Court was satisfied that their respective ex-husbands had misled them and the Court as to the financial position making the Court Order unsafe. The Courts have a wide discretion to determine what is fair in any particular divorce but this can only be based upon full financial information being provided that is reliable and accurate.
The Supreme Court decision is significant and could mean that many thousands of divorce settlements are reviewed and reopened. Whether more generous settlements would be substituted depends upon the particular circumstances of each divorce where there is thought to be dishonesty or the misleading of the Court about the financial situation. At the very least this is a warning to husbands and wives that are going through a divorce that they should not mislead and must be honest in their financial dealings with full financial disclosure being given. If they do not they run the risk of any Court Order being overturned in the future."
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