Divorce Settlements and the Importance of Disclosure

On Monday morning, before leaving for work, I turned on my TV to listen to the news and I ended up fixated by the story of two former wives who have made applications to the Supreme Court to have their finance cases re-opened because they provide that their former spouses misled the Court about their true financial position during the original financial proceedings.

One of the cases mentioned in the news report was the case of Alison Sharland, 48, from Wilmslow. Ms Sharland’s case involves the allegation that her husband has misled the Court about how much he was actually worth.

When an application for a financial order is made to the Court, both parties to that application are under a duty to fully disclose their income, assets and liabilities. The duty of the parties to disclose what their finances are is on-going until financial proceedings have come to a conclusion. This is extremely important to enable the parties’ assets to be divided fairly and reasonably once the marriage is over.

However, as highlighted by Ms Sharland’s case situations can arise where a party to financial proceedings is tempted not to disclosure information which would reveal their true financial position. In my view where it is proven that a party has purposely misled the Court about their finances, serious consideration should be given to whether that case needs to be heard again. As many will know, divorce proceedings and dealing with the finances can be a very emotional experience for a couple and having one party purposely lie about their financial position can only cause further upset; especially where there are children involved.

If the Court decides that a party has purposely misled the Court about their finances then the Court have wide powers to ensure there is full financial disclosure and the Court can order that party to pay the other side’s costs.

The Supreme Court has not yet given a final judgment on Ms Sharland’s case. Ms Sharland’s lawyers have a big task ahead of them and they will need to prove that her husband did in fact mislead the Court about his finances. If the Court agree that the information that had been received by Ms Sharland’s husband was false and/or incomplete then the Court will need to decide whether they would have made a different order from that it would have made if there had been full and proper disclosure.

The final judgment given by the Supreme Court may also give some further guidance as to how the Court should manage a case where it is found that financial information disclosed by a party which was used to agree the terms if a financial settlement is found to be false and/or incomplete.