Sharland v Sharland and Gohil v Gohil – Supreme Court
Yesterday, two women - Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil won their long fight to have their divorce settlements reheard. The battle began, when both, under differing circumstances found out that their ex husbands had deliberately and dishonestly mislead the Court about the extent of their financial wealth in the original negotiations. They have successfully argued before The Supreme Court that in the case of Mrs Sharland, had the true facts been known at the time, the Judge would not have made the order that he did and in the case of Mrs Gohil, the Court of Appeal were wrong not to allow her the opportunity to seek further financial provision and as a consequence their cases should be reheard.
At the first trial between Mr and Mrs Sharland in 2012, the Husband valued his shares in a software business AppSense Holdings Ltd at £7 million and the Wife at £32 million. There were also £17 million liquid assets. They agreed an equal division of the assets with Mr Sharland wanting his to be in shares and Mrs Sharland receiving more liquid assets and 30% of the net proceeds of sale of the shares, whenever that sale took place. Mrs Sharland compromised her claim on the basis that the value of the shares was no more than £32 million and the Company would not be floated on the stock market for some time. Mr Sharland said before the Court that there was no IPO "on the cards today" but it was later found that at the time he had been involved in active preparations to float the company for $750 million upwards and had even had meetings the same week as the hearing to settle the financial aspects of the divorce. When Mrs Sharland appealed the IPO was off the cards and so whilst the Judge found that Mr Sharland had been dishonest, he concluded that she could not set aside the order as she would be unlikely to receive a substantially different award. The Supreme Court disagreed and said she should be allowed a fair trial due to Mr Sharland's dishonest misrepresentation. As the IPO never happened Mrs Sharland is still faced with the question of what extra she will be able to achieve, if any, but that is a question for another day.
At the time of her divorce settlement in 2004 Mrs Gohil did not believe her husband had provided full and frank disclosure of his financial circumstances but wanted finality. She received £270,000, a car and modest spousal support. In 2007 Mr Gohil was arrested and later convicted of money laundering and fraud crimes in the region of £25 million - he is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence. The Consent Order was initially set aside but the Court of Appeal reversed this decision on the grounds that Mrs Gohill could not use the evidence used in his criminal proceedings and any other evidence she produced was not enough. The Supreme Court disagreed on the basis that even if criminal evidence is ignored the conclusion would still be that the Husband was guilty of material non disclosure and the order should be set aside. Mrs Gohil now has the second battle of establishing at the rehearing that her ex husband has assets which do not amount to proceeds of crime but now at the very least has the opportunity to do this. The case also serves as a reminder that there is no limitation period on family cases and another warning to non disclosers that it is only a matter of time before "fraud unravels all".
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