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Fraud unravels all by Beth Mason


Mrs Sharland and Mrs Gohil both settled the financial remedies elements of their matrimonial proceedings by way of consent orders.  Both women relied upon the disclosure provided by their husbands as to their financial positions and both subsequently discovered they had been misled and sought to overturn their respective consent orders.  Both were ultimately successful.

In both cases the wives had been deprived by the Court of Appeal of the opportunity for a full hearing of their claims in situations where the agreements they had reached, and which the court had approved, had been reached on the basis of incorrect and fraudulent representations.  There was an absolute duty on Mr Sharland and Mr Gohil to provide full, frank and accurate disclosure of their finances.  They failed to do so and the Supreme Court have now underlined heavily that in cases where such a failure is sufficiently material and would have affected the outcome of the case it will invalidate any order made as a result of it.

So will the floodgates open?  Will the courts now be inundated with spouses seeking to overturn orders due to material non-disclosure?  It is likely that there are cases waiting in the wings for the outcome of the combined Sharland and Gohil appeals and the Supreme Court has sent a clear warning to spouses who have conducted their matrimonial proceedings dishonestly, or are tempted to do so.  Dishonesty will not be tolerated and if that means further litigation, so be it.

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