Divorce appeal exception not the rule

The recent case of two women who won the right to challenge their divorce settlements has raised questions from many divorcees who wonder whether they now have the right to have their own settlements re-examined.

While it is a regular occurrence for people to feel they should have been entitled to more, especially when the divorce is acrimonious, the cases of Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil are highly unlikely to open the floodgates so that divorcees can challenge their settlements on the basis of feeling aggrieved.

Both women challenged their settlements because it was discovered afterwards that their husbands had concealed their wealth, which was the basis on which the Supreme Court ruled in their favour.

In the case of Mrs Sharland, she accepted a £10m settlement on the basis her husband’s business was worth £47m – it was later estimated in the financial press its true value was around £600m, with plans to float on the stock exchange. For Mrs Gohil, who received £270,000, her husband was convicted of money laundering at a criminal trial, where it was revealed he had failed to disclose his true wealth.

In the vast majority of cases, when a ‘clean break’ in the finances is secured in divorce, it is not possible to re-open the matter. The only way in which it would be possible is through an exceptional event, where some new significant information comes to light which has not been disclosed. While this is extremely rare, be sure to seek legal advice if in doubt.

The Sharland and Gohil cases are certainly landmark rulings in family law, and will no doubt make anyone reconsider attempting to conceal their assets in a divorce case. There is now precedent that a challenge can be made if this is found to have happened, meaning that even if it is not known that full disclosures have not been made at the time of divorce, it can be discovered at any time in the future.

Importantly, it remains the case that you need a lawyer to represent you in your divorce. A good solicitor will work diligently on your behalf to secure the best possible settlement for you to provide for your future.  

Louise Masters is a matrimonial specialist solicitor at Newcastle law firm Sintons. To speak to her about this or any other matter, contact her on louise.masters@sintons.co.uk or 0191 226 3641.


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