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Women win right to reopen divorce settlements

Member: Nifa

Two women who said that their ex-husbands had misled judges about how much they were worth have this week won the right to have their settlements re-examined. In a landmark ruling, which could have huge implications for similar claims, one lawyer claimed that the women had been the “victim of a fraudulent misrepresentation”.

Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil had both appealed their divorce settlements, saying that their ex-husbands had hidden the extent of their wealth when the deals were made and will now both take their cases back to the High Court. 

Ms Sharland believed that the £10m settlement she accepted in her 2010 divorce from her husband represented half of his wealth. Under the settlement, she would also receive 30 per cent of the proceeds of his company’s shares when he sold them. However, it later transpired that he had lied about his company's value, which was estimated to be worth about £600m, as well as plans to float it on the stock market.

Meanwhile, Ms Gohil accepted a car as well as £270,000 as a settlement when she divorced her husband in 2002. However, Mr Gohil was later convicted of money laundering and during his trial, evidence revealed that he had failed to disclose his true wealth during the divorce proceedings.

A lawyer acting for the firm that represented both women said that it is inevitable that other wives, husbands or civil partners who feel that they have been misled during divorce proceedings will seek to bring their cases back to court, and that there is bound to be a significant rise in the number of challenges to existing divorce settlements.

No doubt in these cases, spouses who feel cheated will employ forensic accountants, who will be able to find out the true value of estates by examining bank records, following money trails and scrutinising other documentation. 

Author: Roger Isaacs, 19 October 2015

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