The ex-wife of a businessman who claims her former husband cheated her out of millions in their divorce settlement has won the right to take her case to the Supreme Court.
Alison Sharland, 46, has been given permission to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the settlement despite finding that her ex-husband Charles had fraudulently misrepresented to her and the High Court the value of his company.
Family and divorce lawyer Ros Bever (pictured) at national firm Irwin Mitchell is representing Mrs Sharland in the case that will be heard in June 2015. He said the Supreme Court will need to consider whether the original decision was unjust due to Mr Sharland’s dishonesty.
The Sharlands divorced after 17 years of marriage. In the settlement that followed Mrs Sharland received £10.355m in cash and properties while her ex-husband got £5.64m.
Mr Sharland would also retain a significantly larger proportion of the profit received on sale of the shares in his company that had been valued between £31.5m and £47.25m.
Shortly afterwards, it emerged that the company might be worth significantly more, reportedly up to $1bn (£600m) and that, contrary to Mr Sharland’s evidence during the High Court hearing, an initial public offering was being prepared.
Mrs Sharland sought to set aside the divorce settlement that had been approved by Sir Hugh Bennett in the High Court.
Bennett accepted that Mr Sharland had knowingly concealed information and had lied to the court, but refused to set aside the agreement, stating that the court would not have made a substantially different order had the information been known.
Two of the three Court of Appeal judges upheld the High Court’s decision. Lord Justice Briggs disagreed, stating that the husband’s fraud undermined the whole agreement and voicing concern that, as a matter of public policy, the court’s processes must be protected from fraud.
Despite describing the husband’s ‘deliberate and dishonest’ non-disclosure as ‘deplorable’, the Court of Appeal ordered Mrs Sharland to pay her former husband’s appeal costs.
Commenting on the case, Bever said: ‘Had this been a contract rather than a judicially approved agreement in proceedings ancillary to divorce, the principle that fraud unravels everything would have applied. We think that this is anomalous, unjust and sends out entirely the wrong message.
‘Dishonesty in any legal proceedings should not be tolerated; the family court should not be an exception.’
Mr Sharland's solicitors, James Brown and Beth Wilkins at Manchester firm JMW, said: 'With the Supreme Court due to consider the details of Mr and Mrs Sharland's divorce, we feel that it would be inappropriate to prejudice those deliberations by taking relevant arguments to the media before they are presented to the court. The fact remains that the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court's judgement that the agreement struck between Mr and Mrs Sharland was fair and had not caused her any loss.'
The case is the latest in a long line of recent high-profile family law proceedings including the Radmacher pre-nups case and divorce proceedings including Michelle and Scott Young and Mr and Mrs Prest in Prest v Petrodel.