See my comment in the Law Society Gazette on the Supreme Court rulings in Sharland and Gohil.
This is the first time that issues of non-disclosure in financial remedy proceedings have come before the Supreme Court in this way. By granting these appeals, the Supreme Court has confirmed that dishonest spouses found to have concealed their assets during the course of proceedings should not be allowed to benefit financially from their material non-disclosure or fraud. The Courts are aware of the importance of finality in financial proceedings and, as such there is a high threshold to set aside an order, however certainty should not be the goal at the expense of justice for the parties involved.
Two ex-wives have won a battle to set aside their divorce settlements due to non-disclosure, in a decision that lawyers say shows dishonesty will not be tolerated in the family courts.In an outcome that is likely to have a wide-reaching impact, Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil were both granted the right to challenge their divorce settlements after the Supreme Court unanimously found that their husbands misled the courts in the original hearings. Rebecca Harling, a solicitor at Thomas Eggar, said that as courts are aware of the importance of certainty in financial proceedings there is a high threshold to set aside an order. But she agreed that this outcome would make it easier for wronged parties to reopen proceedings. ‘The outcome of these appeals sets an important precedent for cases of material non-disclosure. In short: it will not be accepted.’