|Sharland Divorce Case Goes to Supreme Court over Husband’s Deception|
The ex-wife of businessman Charles Sharland is asking the UK Supreme Court to increase her divorce award, on the grounds that he lied about the value of his company when the settlement was agreed.
The Sharlands divorced in 2012 after 17 years of marriage. When negotiating the settlement, they agreed that the White v White principle of equal division should be applied. But it took more time to come to an agreement on the value of the matrimonial assets, much of which consisted of Charles Sharland's successful software business, AppSense, of which he owned 63 per cent. He told her the shares were worth about GBP7 million, and that a stock market flotation was still far in the future.
During the legal proceedings, the two reached a compromise agreement that gave Alison Sharland two-thirds of the couple's GBP16 million of cash and properties, while her ex-husband got the other third. He also kept the shareholding in AppSense but with an agreement that Mrs Sharland would receive 30 per cent of any sale of the shares later on.
But Mrs Sharland soon found out that her ex-husband was about to float the company and realise a much larger amount from his shares than she had been led to believe – about half a billion pounds, in fact. She therefore went to the England & Wales High Court to have her settlement revised upwards, as she would not have agreed that settlement if she had known the truth.
The EWHC refused, stating that her award would not have been significantly different even if the true facts had been known. Mrs Sharland took the case to the England & Wales Court of Appeal in February this year, where she lost again. The court even ordered her to pay her ex-husband's appeal costs as well, although it agreed that Mr Sharland's conduct had been 'deplorable, deliberate and dishonest'. Moreover, one of the appeal judges dissented from the judgment, citing the principle that 'fraud unravels all' and the award should have been re-assessed.
Now Mrs Sharland has obtained leave to appeal the matter to the UK Supreme Court. She is represented by Ros Bever, a partner at family law specialist firm Irwin Mitchell.
'This case is not just about Mrs Sharland achieving justice, it is about ensuring that the courts send out a powerful message that dishonesty will not be tolerated, proving that fairness will prevail in divorce settlements', said Bever. 'The husband would not get away with this behaviour in the commercial courts so why should it be acceptable in the family court?', she asked.
However, Charles Sharland's solicitor Beth Wilkins of JMW said Mrs Sharland had 'done very well' from the settlement. 'At any time in the future, Mrs Sharland gets 30 per cent of the value of the shares and she's already got the lion's share of the assets. The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court's judgment that the agreement struck between Mr and Mrs Sharland was fair and had not caused her any loss.'
The opinions expressed do not constitute investment advice and specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
Published on our website on Sep.12, 2014