This week, two ex wives, Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil, won a Supreme Court battle and were granted the right to challenge their divorce settlements. The Supreme Court unanimously found that both of their husbands had misled the courts in their original hearings and took a stand against dishonesty in family court cases. So what will be the impact of these highly publicized appeals?
Divorce lawyer and family law specialist Helen Locke, from QualitySolicitors Brennans Wallsend, believes this judgement will encourage many more ex-spouses to come forward and challenge their original settlement. She said,
"many other ex-husbands, wives or civil partners may now wish to see their own cases brought back to court if they too believe that information was not fully disclosed during their original divorce proceedings. This move encourages honesty in the family courts and proves that only honest and open divorce settlements shall be truly final."
For Alison Sharland, Lady Hale claimed that the case was a matter of fraud, which should be treated with the same severity as fraudulent misrepresentation in an ordinary contract or civil claim case. She held that the judge would have made a different decision regarding a financial settlement had all information been disclosed and so the case should return to the Family Division.
Although Mrs Sharland's case was a matter of millions of pounds, this new level of enforcement could perhaps make a greater deal of difference to cases involving much smaller amounts of money- those that the courts hear every day.