The twittersphere as been alight with family solicitors and barristers tweeting live updates of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Sharland v Sharland and Gohil v Gohil today. The decision was broadcast live from Court 1 of the Supreme Court, and the decision in both cases were that the wives could appeal their financial orders.
In the case of Sharland v Sharland, Mrs Sharland asked the Court not to seal the Consent Order that had been previously agreed with her husband, Mr Sharland, because Mr Sharland had fraudulently misrepresented himself financially. To summarise, Mr Sharland had represented the value and general success of his company in a negative light, but once an order was reached by consent his company was reported as being on the brink of being very valuable and successful.
Mrs Sharland had to prove that the Consent Order that had been agreed would not have been reached had she known then what she knows now. The Supreme Court decided today that on the facts of this case, it was clear that the Court would not have made the order they did in the absence of Mr Sharland’s fraud and therefore the Consent Order should be set aside (i.e. forgotten) and the case would return to the Court. Interestingly for family practitioners, it was also confirmed that the Court retains jurisdiction over a marriage even after it has dissolved. This means that the Court still has the power to vary, suspend or revive any order made in respect of that marriage and either party may make a fresh application or appeal against a Consent Order.
The case of Gohil v Gohil was similar, as the husband had been found criminally guilty of fraud in relation to his financial position. Mrs Gohil applied for her Consent Order (made in 2004) to be appealed as she had always known her husband had failed to accurately disclose his financial position (it was even recorded in the original Consent Order). A decision was made in 2012 that Mrs Gohil had no further claims against her husband, but the Judge at the time did not wait for the decision made by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in Mr Gohil’s fraudulent activities.
The Supreme Court has decided that Mr Gohil was guilty of material non-disclosure (i.e. he had failed to disclose financial information that would have changed the outcome of the original case) and the financial proceedings are to return to Court. The decision in Gohil also confirmed that the High Court should be the most suitable forum for cases where one party brings a case that a financial order should be appealed due to material non-disclosure by the other party.
The decisions made today confirm that if one party to financial proceedings in divorce can be shown to have been guilty of not disclosing financial information at the time of the financial proceedings, and it can be proven that had this financial information been declared at the time there would have been a different result, then the Court will set aside the existing Order and review the case in light of the new information.
To summarise, fraud unravels all.
To avoid non-disclosure problems, you need a law firm that “crosses the Ts” and “dots the Is”.