McHale & Co. Solicitors Blog


The papers this week have reported briefly on the case of Sharland but as far as I am concerned there has not been enough publicity about this case and the message that the court has given as to what people are allowed to do within financial proceedings during divorce.

The case is a local one and the facts surrounded the marriage of Charles and Alison Sharland.  Mr Sharland was a software company entrepenur, his company being a Warrington-based company called Appsense.  The court heard that the marriage was an equal one and the parties intended the divorce to be the same.

During the court process the parties agreed that Ms Sharland would receive more of the liquid assets on the basis that she would surrender her claim to an equal share of the company.  She therefore received £10.4m in cash and property and paid less into a trust fund for their disabled son than her husband on the basis that she would take 30 per cent of the proceeds of sale of the shares when her husband floated the company on the stock market, rather than an equal share.

Ms Sharland argued that the agreement was based on the shares having a value of no more than £32m and that the company would not be floated on the stock market for a further five to seven years.  However, it became apparent that Mr Sharland had misled her and was actually in the process of placing the company on the stock market. Furthermore, reports suggested that Mr Sharland’s shares would be worth £132m after tax.  Bit of a difference!

The High Court refused Ms Sharland’s request to re-open the divorce case and she therefore appealed to the Court of Appeal.

At the court of Appeal Ms Sharland argued that she should not be held to an agreement that was made as a result of her ex-husband’s dishonesty. 

Giving judgment the Judges described Mr Sharland’s actions as “deplorable conduct” and “material fraud”.  However they refused Ms Sharlands appeal on a 2:1 majority as  they said it would be wrong to re-open the divorce proceedings.  It was only the dissenting judge, Lord Justice Briggs, who stated that the agreement was based on Mr Sharland’s fraud and, therefore, this should result in a setting aside of the financial agreement.

I personally do not understand why Ms Sharland did not win her appeal to re-open this case.  It has always been the rule that financial agreements can be set aside if it can be shown that fraud has taken place.  In this case Ms Sharland could clearly show that she had been cheated and in many ways the Judges agreed with her but yet they still refused to re-open the case.

How then, can we as lawyers advise our clients regarding full and frank disclosure and honesty when the courts have now given the impression that it is alright to cheat as the case won’t be re-opened? It goes against the fundamental principle of full and frank disclosure. It remains to be seen through further cases as to whether this case becomes a precedent – let’s hope not!  Let’s also hope that not many parties to current proceedings are made aware of the judgment in this case!

Categories: Divorce & Family Law

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