Dishonesty in the Divorce Courts: Sharland and Gohil

A precedent for how dishonesty is treated by family courts was set in October 2015, when a three-day Supreme Court case was heard.

Two wives, Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil, appeared in court seeking to overrule their original divorce settlements. They argued they had been deliberately misled by their former spouses regarding hidden assets.

Original settlements

Mrs Gohil had originally settled for £270,000.

Mrs Sharland had agreed an equal share of assets between her and her ex-husband, leaving her with £10million in liquid assets, whilst he took 50% in shares.

However, both women believed their husbands to have lied about the wealth of their assets.

Court of Appeal

Both women took their cases to the Court of Appeal, arguing that there had been a lack of disclosure by their ex-husbands.

However, both petitions were denied.

Sharland’s on the grounds that despite the dishonesty of her husband, the judge would not have filed a different order had the true assets been known.

In Mrs Gohil’s case it was due to a lack of evidence. A previous criminal trial against Mr Gohil prohibited lawyers from using key information in the divorce appeal.

The women chose to refer their cases to the Supreme Court.

To The Supreme Court

At the three-day hearing seven judges ruled unanimously in the women’s favour, with both divorce settlements being overturned.

Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, who represented the two women commented, “it is the first time in a generation that the highest court in the land has heard cases on the issue of non-disclosure in divorce proceedings.”

The divorce proceedings between both couples have now be re-opened with the matters looking to continue for the foreseeable future.

Raising Serious Issues

Ros Bever of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, 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.”

At the time the law was unclear about when a lack of disclosure was enough to overrule a court agreement.

This landmark case may now set a precedent for other divorce proceedings in which a lack of disclosure in court is thought to have occurred.

Hayley Trim from Irwin Mitchell said of the lasting consequences of this trial, “there can be no finality unless there has been honesty.”

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