Lawyers Say She Was Misled Over Value of Shares Built Up During 17-Year Marriage
A Cheshire woman has taken her divorce case to the Court of Appeal after it emerged that her ex-husband had misled her over the potential value of shares in his business and how soon the shares were likely to turn into cash, meaning she may have missed out on millions of pounds.
Alison Sharland, from Wilmslow, signed an agreement with her ex-husband Charlie, 53, in 2012 which she believed gave her half of the matrimonial assets, based on accountancy evidence regarding the value of her husband’s shares. However it has since transpired that he had seriously misled both the family law court and Mrs Sharland regarding his plans for publicly listing his company – potentially leading to her missing out on tens of millions of pounds.
Now Mrs Sharland and her divorce lawyers at Irwin Mitchell say the Court of Appeal has the chance to show spouses that they will not tolerate dishonesty in family law proceedings.
Mrs Sharland had entered into an agreement over her divorce settlement on the basis that the shares in her ex-husband’s business would be worth no more than £32m but media reports on a public listing suggested that his share could be worth £132m. She also claims she was led to believe it would be years until the listing when in fact it appears that he was already in the process of planning it.
Mrs Sharland established an autism charity with Mr Sharland during their marriage. She says that although her husband, who runs a software business, was the main earner, she had equal rights in the marriage because she cared for their disabled son rather than working and will continue to do so. The couple had been married for 17 years when they separated in 2010 and had built up the substantial assets between them during this time.
She has now taken the case to the Court of Appeal after a family law judge had previously found that despite her husband being dishonest he would not re-examine the original court order. Her husband maintains that although he misled her, the original court order was fair.
Ros Bever, a specialist family and divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Mrs Sharland, said:
Expert Opinion“Mrs Sharland had accepted a settlement that appears to be based on inaccurate information disclosed by her husband so the agreement for half of the couple’s assets does not technically give her an equal share, something which Mrs Sharland had believed to be the case when she entered into an agreement with him.”
The original court order was based on much a much lower value than Mr Sharland appears to have believed his company to be worth at the time the agreement was reached. She therefore feels that the court order is unfair and that her husband is getting away with his dishonesty in deliberately misleading her over the value of his shares and the timing of his shares turning into cash.”
“This case is not just about Mrs Sharland achieving justice, it is about ensuring that the Court sends out a powerful message that dishonesty will not be tolerated, proving that fairness will prevail in divorce settlements.” Ros Bever - Partner
The case is the latest in a line of high profile cases this year, including Petrodel v Prest, and Young v Young, where spouses have seemingly defied the principles of fairness in divorce settlements, often using their businesses to ‘disguise’ their wealth.
Ros added: “The Court of Appeal has to determine whether the previous judge went too far in exercising his discretion because he had not heard all of the evidence when approving the agreement reached and subsequently ordering that Mrs Sharland should be bound by its terms. Despite withdrawing her consent to an agreement founded on dishonesty, she is effectively stuck with it. The husband would not get away with this behaviour in the commercial courts so why should it be acceptable in the family court?”
The judgment was reserved until next year.
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