The Judgments delivered by the Supreme Court in the recent cases of Gohil and Sharland reconfirm what all family law solicitors have always known: if you mislead the court about your level of wealth and the court finds out, any previous financial order can be set aside.
Alison Sharland's settlement
Alison Sharland divorced her husband Charles in 2010 and accepted a financial settlement of £10m plus 30% of the proceeds of shares that were held by her husband if he ever sold them. Mrs Sharland accepted this as she thought it amounted to 50% of the assets. At the time of the divorce, Mr Sharland had valued his company at £47m. It later emerged that it was likely to be closer to £600m. The Supreme Court were satisfied that, had the original Judge known the true value, he would never have made the financial order that he made.
Varsha Gohil's story
Varsha Gohil accepted a financial order in 2004 for £270,000 plus a car. Her husband had said that there were no assets, only debts, and he would only be able to pay Mrs Gohil the lump sum by relying on help from his family. In 2008, Mr Gohil was charged with serious money laundering offences and was then sent to prison in 2011. During his criminal proceedings, it emerged that he had not been honest about the level of his wealth within the divorce proceedings. Again the Supreme Court stated that Mr Gohil had a duty to the court to provide full and frank financial disclosure and he had not done so.
Lying. Doesn't. Work.
In both cases, the Supreme Court has set aside the original financial orders and the cases will effectively start from the beginning again – only this time any financial order will hopefully be based on accurate and honest information.
The lesson here is be honest - or risk serious consequences. At the very least, costs orders can be made against you and at the very worst, you can be sent to prison for perjury.
The real problem is that these two ladies were fortunate enough to become aware of their husbands’ fraud. There are bound to be many cases where the victim either never discovers that fraud has taken place or can never prove it.
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