Two ex-wives win landmark case after saying they should have gotten more money from former husbands
Published 14/10/2015 | 10:40
Two ex-wives who say they should get more money after divorcing have won a Supreme Court victory.
Alison Sharland, 48, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, and Varsha Gohil, 50, from north London, both said their ex-husbands misled judges about how much they were worth.
Both want their claims re-analysed at fresh hearings. Their ex-husbands disagree.
Supreme Court justices, who analysed the disputes at a hearing in London in June, have now ruled in favour of the women.
Lawyers say the cases raise questions of general public importance.
The Supreme Court heard that both women had reached agreements with their ex-husbands after beginning litigation, but both subsequently thought that they had been misled.
Mrs Sharland had accepted more than £10 million in cash and properties from ex-husband Charles three years ago.
Mrs Gohil had accepted £270,000 plus a car from ex-husband Bhadresh more than a decade ago.
The court heard that Mrs Sharland claimed she was misled her over the value of a business.
Lawyers said she had thought the business was valued at between £31 million and £47 million but reports in the financial press put the value at £1 billion.
Mrs Gohil's husband had been convicted of money laundering following their divorce.
Neither woman has yet said how much they now want.
The Supreme Court justices indicated that both women's claims would return to the High Court for further consideration.
"By the husband's fraud and the judge's order, she had been deprived of her right to a full and fair hearing of her claims," one justice, Lady Hale, said of Mrs Sharland's case.
"The case must therefore return to the Family Division (of the High Court) for further directions as to how her claim is to proceed."
Another justice, Lord Wilson, said Mr Gohil had a "duty" to make "full disclosure".
Mrs Sharland said after the ruling: "I am relieved and delighted that the Supreme Court judges have ruled in our favour.
"I hope that their decision sends out a message to everyone going through a divorce."
She went on: "My legal battle has never been about the money, it has always been a matter of principle. I entered into an agreement with my estranged husband thinking that it was a fair one.
"I believed that the net result was an equal division of our assets which had accrued during our marriage and so, in my opinion, 50% was fair.
"Unfortunately, the evidence was manipulated by my estranged husband and it was not therefore possible to rely on the evidence of either of our accountants when considering the value of what I believe was and is the most valuable asset.
"The proceedings have dragged on and, at times, I have considered whether it was the right thing to do to continue my appeal, especially as there has been criticism about my pursuing the appeal because of the amount of the award which I originally received.
"However, I know that there are potentially others who are not in the same position as me financially, those who cannot afford to pursue a principle."
She added: "I hope that I can now begin to move on with my life safe in the knowledge that my future divorce settlement will be based on the true value of our assets."
Mrs Gohil said: "There are absolutely no winners in divorce and more than a thought has to be given to the children of families locked in this type of litigation. The price they pay is a very heavy one. The emotional strain of it is huge on everyone, the drain in financial resources is enormous and none of it serves the family.
"The court process is unfortunately geared towards those with financial means and I consider myself fortunate that to have been able to conduct most of my case on my own.
She added: "All spouses subject to deceit and deliberate financial skulduggery in a divorce owe a huge debt of gratitude to the tireless efforts of the legal team here today."
James Brown, a partner with JMW Solicitors, which is acting on Mr Sharland's behalf, said: "Mr Sharland is, of course, disappointed with today's decision particularly in light of both the High Court and Court of Appeal finding in his favour and the fact that his evidence regarding the prospects of his company has, in fact, been completely borne out.
"We believe that this decision marks a fundamental change in the law.
"Family law is complicated and entirely discretionary and there could be a danger that this change may open the floodgates to thousands of couples revisiting the agreements they reached.
"On a personal level Mr Sharland is bitterly disappointed that his family will continue to be locked in litigation for the foreseeable future.
"Mr Sharland's primary objectives have always remained the same - to arrive at a fair settlement with Mrs Sharland and to make generous provision for his children.
"It is perhaps ironic that Mrs Sharland may actually end up with less as a result of the ongoing legal action than originally agreed more than three years ago.
"That arrangement provided her with three substantial properties, many millions of pounds in cash and 30 per cent of what Mr Sharland gets from the sale of his business whenever it sells.
"We still maintain that settlement was perfectly fair and ensured Mrs Sharland was very well looked after by any standards."