Speaking on the 14th October following the Supreme Court judgment on Sharland v Sharland, Jo Edwards, chair of family law organisation Resolution, said:
“The success of Mrs Sharland and Mrs Gohil today is a clear indicator that anything less than full and frank disclosure of assets in divorce cases will not be tolerated by the courts, where this has an outcome on the order that the court would otherwise have made. This has significant implications for other cases where assets are suspected of having been concealed, and could see many other recently finalised cases being reopened.”
“It is arguably in these cases, rather than the dealings of the multi-millionaire Sharlands, that the importance of this judgment lies. A few extra million pounds may be felt objectively to make little difference to Mrs Sharland’s standard of living, but access to a share in concealed assets could make a huge difference in smaller money cases that are heard by judges every day. This is even more important where, on the face of it, the assets available are not enough to meet the parties’ needs.”
Mrs Sharland and Mrs Gohill both appealed against their financial awards following the breakdown of their marriages. The appeals, although on different technical points, were because they both believed that their respective husbands had given incomplete disclosure of their financial assets; and that if they had been aware of the true position, they would not have received the settlement that they did. The Supreme Court has now confirmed that in both of these cases the settlement should be looked at again by the courts.
Whilst the appeals by Mrs Sharland and Mrs Gohill were specific to their own particular cases, the court has given important guidelines to all divorce cases. The court expects both parties to be honest, and provide complete disclosure of their financial position. The court have stated that the onus is on the person who was not completely open and honest to show the court why a settlement should not be overturned and not be reconsidered by the court.
It would seem that common sense has prevailed and the courts are now more likely to prevent a party being held to a settlement which is unfair due to a lack of disclosure.
These appeals may now lead to previous cases being reconsidered where one party believes that the other party was not honest.