The Supreme Court unanimously ruled to allow a divorcee to reopen the hearing into the settlement granted to her, after her husband misled her about his financial affairs.
Alison Sharland was awarded over £10 million in her 2012 divorce settlement. Her husband, Charles Sharland, founded the IT company AppSense, which makes it possible for employees to work across multiple mobile devices seamlessly.
However, she maintains that at the time of the award, he failed to disclose the likelihood that the company would soon float and was already actively in talks; he instead stated there was “no IPO on the cards today”. She therefore stands to gain a greater share of his wealth, since the non-disclosure effectively masked how much he was worth at the time and meant the judge was unable to make an accurate ruling of what a fair settlement might be.
The Sharlands were married in 1993 and separated in 2010, and the value of AppSense was the chief factor in the divorce settlement. Alison Sharland’s application for financial relief will now return to the Family Division of the High Court for further directions.
In the judgment, Lady Hale noted that the issue at hand was one of fraud, and that the general principle of “fraud unravels all” would be correctly applied here. “It would be extraordinary if the victim of a fraudulent misrepresentation in a matrimonial case was in a worse position than the victim of a fraudulent misrepresentation in an ordinary contract case including a contract to settle a civil claim.”
Atherton Godfrey's specialist divorce solicitor, Sharon McKie, said: "The case opens the way for other settlements to be reopened, if there is evidence that one party deliberately misled the other about the nature of their financial position. Although there have previously been cases in which assets have been hidden, this is the first in which a settlement has been revisited due to inaccurate information about the likelihood of future wealth."
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