The Sharland divorce appeal will take place in the Supreme Court next year.
It’s only a year since the Prest v Petrodel case was decided by the Supreme Court, and shortly the eminent Justices will be tasked with considering another case where Family Law and Corporate Law intersect.
Alison Sharland now has permission to appeal the Court of Appeal decision regarding finances in her divorce from her ex-husband Charles Sharland. Mrs Sharland believes that her former husband purposefully misled both her and the High Court in valuing his company, reducing the settlement she was entitled to by a matter of millions of pounds.
However we won’t know the outcome for a while yet – the case won’t even be heard at the Supreme Court until June 2015. Like all contentious cases involving finances a lot of evidence will be required. The Supreme Court will be asked whether the Court of Appeal’s ruling on the earlier High Court award was just or was flawed by Charles Sharland’s fraudulent misrepresentation.
The Sharland marriage was a long one at 17 years and Mrs Sharland’s settlement included just over £10m in property and cash compared to Mr Sharland’s £5.6m. However, the ex-husband was allowed to retain a large proportion of the profit from his business.
Shortly afterwards, as part of preparations for a stock market flotation, it emerged that the company might be worth significantly more than the valuation provided to the High Court.
Mrs Sharland now seeks to set aside the decision made by Sir Hugh Bennett in the High Court. Sir Hugh accepted that Mr Sharland had lied to court but would not set aside the decision on the basis that it would not have been substantially different had Mr Sharland been truthful in disclosing his financial position from the outset.
By a majority of two to one the Court of Appeal found in favour of Sir Hugh’s decision. In his dissenting judgment Lord Justice Briggs emphasised the public policy concerns he felt: namely that the court process should be free from fraud. In spite of agreeing with the High Court that fraudulent behaviour had occurred, the Court of Appeal also found Mrs Sharland liable to pay her ex-husband’s legal costs.
It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will agree with the lower courts and if so, whether it will be for the same or different reasons, but whatever the outcome, the judgment could have far-reaching consequences for those asking the courts to determine their financial settlement.