The Supreme Court judgments in the recent cases of Gohil v Gohil and Sharland v Sharland have caused quite a stir. Despite previously having reached settlements in respect of their matrimonial finances, the Supreme Court held that Mrs Gohil and Mrs Sharland were entitled to have their claims for financial provision reassessed in light of the Court finding that their respective husbands’ had failed to provide full details of their assets at the time that the original settlements were reached.
The finding highlights the great importance of the obligation on separating couples to provide each other with full and frank disclosure of their assets when looking to divide their matrimonial finances. The judgement now makes clear that the deliberate withholding of information throughout the disclosure process will not be tolerated by the Family Court.
Individuals who are separating, divorcing or currently in the process of resolving their matrimonial finances, are entitled to seek full and frank disclosure of each other’s assets before reaching a financial agreement. This applies regardless of whether you are dealing with the division of your matrimonial assets between yourselves, through mediation or through solicitors. Gohil and Sharland emphasise that there is no benefit to hiding the true value of your wealth. Being open and honest with each other from the start is the best way to reach a fair agreement and avoid lengthy, costly and stressful litigation now and possibly in many years to come.
The case of Gohil was concluded in 2004 and, as a result of the ruling of the Supreme Court, the agreement reached in respect of the matrimonial finances will now be reassessed 11 years later. The case of Sharland involves an appeal against a High Court judgement made in 2012. The Supreme Court judgements in these cases reiterate that full and frank disclosure is the foundation to achieving a just and fair settlement. If this foundation is flawed, then there may well be grounds for having the settlement reopened and reassessed regardless of the time which has elapsed since the settlement was reached.
The lesson to be learned from Gohil and Sharland is: DO give full and frank financial disclosure and DON’T deliberately fail to disclose assets because there is now the possibility that your case could be reopened and reassessed in the future.