Civil Partner Granted Permission To Take Dissolution Battle To Court of Appeal

Woman Fighting For Fair Settlement After 19-Year Relationship


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

A woman who discovered that her civil partner, who died suddenly in 2013, had failed to disclose assets worth millions of pounds during their dissolution proceedings is to take her landmark legal battle for justice to the Court of Appeal.

Helen Roocroft, 40, from Bolton, was previously in a 19-year-relationship with her wealthy businesswoman partner, Carol Ainscow, who had been reported in The Times Rich List as being worth in excess of £30m.

Following their separation the former couple agreed a financial settlement in 2010 but after her partner’s sudden death, Miss Roocroft found that assets worth millions were not disclosed to the courts during their dissolution proceedings and has now turned to specialist family lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to represent her as she seeks to overturn the agreement based on allegedly dishonest information.

This is the latest in a long line of cases involving allegations of what the court refers to as 'material non-disclosure' and Ros Bever, the expert divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Miss Roocroft is also acting for two wives - Varsha Gohil and Alison Sharland - who have been granted permission to take their cases to the Supreme Court in June this year on the basis of allegations of dishonesty on the part of their respective husbands.

Mrs Bever a Partner at Irwin Mitchell says she hopes “2015 will be the year in which the Courts at the highest level make it absolutely clear that allegations of dishonesty in divorce and dissolution cases will have the benefit of the most vigorous enquiry by the Courts". Paula Myers who heads up the Will, Trust and Estates Dispute team at Irwin Mitchell is also advising on elements of the case.

Miss Roocroft and Ms Ainscow began their relationship in 1991 and after living together for years converted to a civil partnership in 2008. During the dissolution and financial proceedings in 2010 which followed their separation, Miss Roocroft alleges she was frozen out of the couple's jointly-acquired finances and her ex-partner subsequently misled the court as to the extent of the assets available for distribution, saying her wealth had been adversely affected by the global recession.

Finding little assistance from the court to challenge her ex-partner’s claims regarding her finances, Miss Roocroft says she had little choice but to accept a derisory offer to settle the case.

Now in an unprecedented legal case involving allegations of non-disclosure, a same-sex civil partnership and potential Inheritance Act proceedings, Miss Roocroft is asking the court to overturn the 2010 settlement so that she can receive a fair proportion of the couple's assets.

Initially, Miss Roocroft faced resistance from the court, which found that she only had herself to blame for reaching such a modest agreement and refused to re-open the case, despite the fact that the court nor Miss Roocroft had been fully informed at the time the agreement was reached.

It was only this week, when the Court of Appeal considered the case in further depth, that it was decided Miss Roocroft's case had prospects of success and she deserved the chance to argue her case before a full Court of Appeal later this year.

Mrs Bever, a specialist family and divorce solicitor at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office, said:

Expert Opinion
To date, Miss Roocroft feels that she has been badly served by the system. She was let down in 2010 when she was refused the means to fight her case against her partner and she was let down again in 2014 when the court decided her case should be thrown out at the first hurdle, without even allowing her the opportunity of a full hearing in which to put her case.

“We are now delighted that the Court of Appeal has agreed that her case has merit we look forward to presenting our arguments in a full hearing later this year.

“This is a landmark case as it involves many complicated issues but it seems that all too often partners whether in marriage or civil partnerships are trying to get out of agreeing a fair settlement by being deliberately obstructive or dishonest about their wealth and assets. It is time the courts put a stop to this once and for all in 2015.

“I would like to thank counsel, Samantha Hillas of St Johns Buildings, who has shared my belief in Helen's case from the start and who has been willing to go to tremendous lengths to ensure Helen achieves justice.”
Ros Bever, Partner

The appeal will likely be heard towards the end of this year when Miss Roocroft hopes the Court of Appeal will set aside the original agreement and provide her with a fairer share of the assets.

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in Family Law and Wills, Trust and Estates Disputes.