Our family law team appealed an unfair decision in the Supreme Court to help Varsha get the financial support she deserves after a long, complicated divorce. With our support, she’s finally been able to turn stress into peace of mind.
Varsha’s story starts all the way back in 2002, when she separated from her then husband. The couple had three children who were ten, eight and six years old at the time and lived with Varsha as the divorce got underway.
An Unfair Settlement
After two years of intense financial wrangling, in 2004, Varsha reluctantly agreed her original financial settlement. However, she always felt that it was grossly unfair and that her husband had lied about the finances. More importantly, the settlement didn’t adequately provide for Varsha and her children. Varsha didn’t have sufficient evidence to prove that her concerns were valid.
Before the divorce, Varsha was mainly a homemaker and thought she could continue a good lifestyle, caring for her children without having to work outside the home. But after the divorce she was left with nothing, and not even the family home. “I was literally left with three young children and no money. We were absolutely rock bottom,” said Varsha.
She believed that her ex-husband was hiding his true wealth to avoid fairly dividing the matrimonial assets or paying the right amount of maintenance. He was a solicitor himself and Varsha suspected he was using his legal knowledge to trick her and to manipulate the system. But she couldn’t prove it.
Varsha had no choice but to just pick herself up and get on with her life and with raising her three children. She studied law and completed a degree and a Legal Practice Course (LPC). She was looking forward to a new career in law to provide for her children when her ex-husband wouldn’t.
A Glimmer of Hope
Varsha found new evidence in 2007 that indicated her ex-husband had indeed failed to disclose certain assets during the original settlement negotiations. The next year, in 2008, she applied to have the original unfair financial settlement set aside.
But that’s where things get complicated. In the meantime, her ex-husband was charged for money laundering and his money was frozen. He was able to get Varsha’s set-aside application put on hold until 2011 while he went through his criminal case.
Varsha had to then forget about her new career for the time being, while she focused on her children. “Because of his criminal case,” she said, “I had to put my life on hold and even though our finances were dire. I prioritised the children and in protecting them and their studies. They had already suffered so much because of the divorce and now the bad publicity about their father was just too much for them to cope with. It’s just horrible that they have had to go through so much at such a young age.”
Thankfully, Varsha won the set-aside when it finally went ahead. She now had a chance to get a fair financial settlement based on a more accurate view of her ex-husband’s wealth.
The First Appeal
Varsha’s ex didn’t accept the set-aside decision and went to the Court of Appeal in 2013 to try and get it overturned. He succeeded, and the court reinstated the original, unfair settlement.
The Court of Appeal’s decision left Varsha out of pocket and without legal representation. “It was the most awful thing. I had this case that had been successfully proceeding through the courts for over ten years, and with everything finally positive in my favour. Then in comes the Court of Appeal and just wipes it all out with their decision! I was shocked and utterly devastated.”
But Varsha didn’t give up. Thanks to her legal training and because she was really hands on with her case, she knew that they had made a mistake. But she also knew that the time was ticking to make her own appeal and set things straight.
“For a long time after the Court of Appeal decision, I couldn’t even bear to think about my case. But then one morning I just decided that I had no time to waste feeling sorry for myself and resolved to take back control of my case. I went through the judgments and picked out the bits that were wrong and satisfied myself that they had got it wrong. I knew I had to appeal so then in comes Ros.”
The Supreme Court Application
Varsha had heard about a similar case through the legal grapevine. Ros Bever, family law partner at Irwin Mitchell, had got permission to appeal a case in the Supreme Court for another client, Alison Sharland. Varsha was determined to try for a Supreme Court appeal herself in any case, but decided to give Ros a ring to see if she could help.
Ros was on holiday when Varsha called so she left a message with Ros’ assistant not really expecting to hear back if she’s abroad. “When Ros called me straight back, I was amazed and it’s a moment that I’ll never forget” said Varsha – Ros not only called her from her holiday in Spain, but there and then, Ros agreed to help Varsha apply for permission to appeal.
They had a very short window in which to apply for permission to appeal. But luckily, Varsha had used her legal knowledge to put together a file with all the key evidence about the judgment and detailed why it was wrong. It covered the whole chronology back to 2002 and gave Ros everything she needed.
Ros got the permission to appeal and quickly assembled a team for the Supreme Court appeal hearing itself. It was a huge relief for Varsha to have the support she needed. “She just took over and it was so lovely because I was worn out having gone through months of torture, pain, worry. I was literally in a depressive state and Ros just picked me up and got me there.”
“A Real Milestone”
In 2015, Both Varsha and Alison won their Supreme Court appeals with Ros’ help. Varsha’s set-aside was reinstated allowing Varsha to continue fighting for a fair financial settlement.
These landmark judgments have changed the face of family law in England ever since, helping divorcees across the country get justice and deter dishonesty.
Ros was thrilled to succeed for Varsha in one of the biggest cases of her career to date. “On a personal level,” said Ros, “these two women were lied to and wronged by their husbands during their divorces, which just adds even more stress to an already horrible situation. It was immensely satisfying to see the husbands get their comeuppance, and to make it easier in the future for the victims of these situations to get the justice they deserved.”
Unfortunately, Varsha’s ex-husband continues to fight her efforts to get her just deserts and his money laundering conviction continues to complicate things. But the Supreme Court decision has given Varsha not only peace of mind but a firm footing in her case and a much more positive view for the future.
“The children were the most important people for me to consider, and they still are,” she says. “I feel relieved that against the backdrop of our complex lives and epic litigation I have had to manage, they’ve all finished their education and I can now make good their own lives. The Supreme Court judgment was a real highlight but 2015 was also the year that all three children started university and seeing them all finally off on their own life journeys was another huge milestone for me and so satisfying.”
Memories of the support from Ros and her team have stayed with Varsha as she continues her legal battle.
“Ros is just lovely,” she said, “It’s exactly what you need – an empathetic, soft, kind-hearted lawyer when you’re going through all of that. You really do need that and with Ros and the rest of the team at Irwin Mitchell, I had that.”
“They had a heart, they weren’t just lawyers doing their work. They cared – they cared about me and they cared for me, and they were happy for me.”
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