Breaking News! Were You Duped Out Of A Proper Divorce Settlement? A New Court Ruling Means You Could Be Entitled To More Money
In a landmark ruling this month, the Supreme Court turned the world of divorce settlements upside down with a chilling message to those who try to hide their assets and wealth in divorce proceedings.
The message? Simple really… If you try to hide your money and assets, you will always be looking over your shoulder and you will never be able to relax. Your partner can come after you at any time demanding more money if you have not been open and upfront about your wealth and the Court will hold you to account for your dishonesty.
In these two landmark cases, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that two ex-wives were entitled to far larger payouts from their ex-husbands because those ex-husbands had not fully disclosed the full value of their assets at the time their divorce settlements were negotiated.
Lady Hale of the Supreme Court indicated that anyone engaged in fraudulent activity in a divorce would jeopardise any settlement agreement in the same way it would do in a normal contract. She said there was no “special magic” that entitled people to engage in dishonesty/fraud during a divorce. This ruling will be music to the ears of partners who felt that their ex-spouses had hidden their wealth and denied them a fair divorce settlement.
Read on to see how this latest decision could affect you.
What was this Case About?
The case involved two women, Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil. Both had originally accepted financial settlements from their ex-partners before discovering that those partners had deliberately hidden the truth about their financial situation from them. Why had the ex-partners done this? Was it an attempt to pay less as part of their divorce settlement?
Alison had accepted a £10.3 million settlement from her ex-husband three years ago, but later discovered that her husband was considering floating his business on the stock exchange, a move which would dramatically increase its value.
Varsha had accepted £270,000 and a car as part of her divorce settlement in 2004. Six years later, her ex-husband was jailed for his role in a multi-million pound money laundering scam.
The lower courts had agreed with Alison and Varsha that their ex-husbands had hidden assets from them: However, they ruled that the divorce settlements that the couples had agreed upon could not be reassessed simply because the ex-husbands had been dishonest. However, the Supreme Court disagreed.
Why did the Supreme Court Overturn the Decisions of the Lower Courts and Allow the Women to Re-open their Settlements?
In short, because the decisions appeared to be unjust – a damning indictment for a system that prides itself on adhering to principles of justice, fairness and equality. In reversing the Court of Appeal’s decision, Lady Hale placed a divorce settlement on the same level as a normal settlement or contract. She said that the idea of allowing people to get away with fraud in a divorce case was ‘extraordinary’. I have to agree with her. Why is it acceptable to lie, just because the person you are lying to is your partner?
What will the Decision Mean for Future Divorce Proceedings?
The next set of decisions coming out of the lower courts will be significant as those courts are bound to follow the precedent set by the Supreme Court. This will inevitably open the floodgates for others who suspect that their ex-spouses have lied about their finances. The Courts must be bracing themselves for an onslaught.
This decision will benefit the financially weaker party in a divorce case. With legal aid having been curtailed in family law matters, those who suspect that their wealthier partners have lied about their assets would normally have to fund a lengthy court battle to uncover these hidden assets. This new decision means that these people will find it easier to get funding for such claims as they will have some certainty about further settlement monies coming to them. Wealthy partners will also think twice about lying about their financial situation or risk being ordered to make larger payouts in the future as well as being ordered to pay the other side’s legal costs.
But what about the children? I hear you cry
The rulings will massively affect the lives of the children of these marriages: It is worthwhile noting that according to the Registered Charity Gingerbread, 41 percent of children in single-parent families live in relative poverty. It is clear that some of these children living in poverty would not have to live that way if only their parents had been honest about their wealth during their marriage break up. I hope that these Supreme Court rulings will make it far more risky for a wealthier spouse to conceal their true wealth, ultimately resulting in less poverty for these kids in the long run.
I Suspect my Ex-spouse Misrepresented Their Financial Situation at the Time of Settlement – What Should I do Now?
If you believe your ex-spouse acted fraudulently or dishonestly at the time your divorce settlement was negotiated, you need to contact a family law solicitor immediately to discuss re-opening your case.
At Saracens Solicitors, we can offer you clear, concise advice as to the chances of your settlement being re-opened, and give you an honest opinion as to whether or not it is worth pursuing the matter, based on balancing the cost of re-opening the matter against the likely increase in financial settlement if you can prove your ex-spouse misrepresented their monetary position.
To discuss your situation further, please telephone our London offices (located in Marble Arch) on 020 3588 3500 to speak to one of our family law team in complete confidence.
If you have any comments to make on this latest decision, then please feel free to add your thoughts to the comments section below.