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Divorce FAQs

Divorce is often an incredibly stressful process for couples. Ending a marriage is not something that is done lightly and can often become complicated.In this article Kiren Dhillon breaks down the process and outlines how a divorce works.How does the divorce process start?The divorce starts with the "petitioner", the party who applies for...
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International Divorce: A Case Study

Jennifer Herbert outlines a recent divorce where she acted for the wife who resided in Dubai.Jennifer represented Mrs S who was working and living in Dubai. Mr S was also working and living in Dubai. They had no children but did own a joint property in England which was registered and mortgaged in their joint names. Sadly, their relationship had br...
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Why a Cohabitation Agreement is so important to unmarried couples

Contrary to popular belief, there is no legal concept of "common law" spouse and the law relating to cohabiting couples is outdated. The law still does not recognise a living-together relationship outside of marriage or civil partnership.How does this affect your rights if you were to ever break up?According to the Office of National Statistic...
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No Fault Divorce – Finally, an end to the blame game is in sight

The Ministry of Justice confirmed that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill entered Parliament on 7 January 2020. The Bill seeks to introduce a 'no fault divorce' in England and Wales, whereby couples can get divorced without blaming the other party. Our Family Law Team look at this new law and what it means for separating couples.This...
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Resolution launches Good Divorce Week

Monday 28 November 2016 marks the start of “Good Divorce Week 2016”, a campaign by Resolution. 

Resolution is a community of family law professionals who subscribe to a Code of Practice to assist working with families and individuals to resolve issues in a constructive way.

The family team at Pinney Talfourd are all proud to be members of Resolution and subscribe to their Code of Practice which has recently been revised.

The ethos of the Code is to encourage families to deal with their issues without conflict or confrontation, to support and encourage them to put forward the best interests of their children first, to act with honesty, integrity and objectivity and to strive to resolve matters so far as it is possible to do so without the need to apply to Court.

A full copy of the Code of Practice can be seen here: http://www.resolution.org.uk/site_content_files/files/code_of_practice_full_version_web.pdf 

As part of the campaign, Resolution will be attending Parliament to lobby for a change in the law to include ‘no fault’ divorce and improving the rights of cohabiting couples.

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Christmas contact for separated families

It is never too early for separated families to start working together to arrange Christmas contact in the best interest of the children.

It is never too early to start working with the other parent to sort out which part of the coming Christmas holidays your child or children will spend with each of you.

You always know Christmas is around the corner when the shops start selling cards and gifts, lights go up in offices and shops - even though it is only the second week of November!

If your child or children live with their your ex spouse or ex partner, then it is never too early to start working with the other parent to sort out which part of the coming Christmas holidays your child or children will spend with each of you.

It’s a good idea to try and share the time equally and alternate from year to year, especially when your children are young, so that as the years go by, you can both enjoy the experience of waking up on Christmas morning and opening their presents with them. It will always be best for your child or children if you can agree this without the need for the Court to get involved.

However, if you cannot agree on a schedule of time that your child or children will spend with each of you, you may need to apply to Court for an Order, which is now called a Child Arrangement Order (we no longer use the phrases ‘access’, ‘contact’, ‘custody’ or ‘residence’ when talking about children), though save in limited circumstances you must at least try and reach an agreement through mediation otherwise you will not be able to apply to the Court for a Judge to sort things out.

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The need for a Consent Order

Sarah Tsindides explains why it is important that a financial settlement in divorce proceedings is recorded in a consent order.

When a financial settlement is reached in divorce proceedings it is important that this is recorded within a consent order. This will ensure that all claims that both parties can make against the other are fully resolved and the terms are embodied within the consent order. Once approved and sealed by the court they become enforceable upon Decree Absolute (final decree) being granted.

Therefore if one party refuses to comply with the implementation of the order the other party can apply to the court to seek enforcement and the application can include asking the court to make an order for costs against the offending party.

It is therefore beneficial to both parties that a consent order, to reflect all terms of a full and final settlement, is put in place before Decree Absolute is granted.

Without this neither party are protected. Either party could apply to the court for a further order in relation to the matrimonial finances even if the parties have already agreed to the division of net proceeds of sale or a transfer of the marital home to the other party.

More Information 

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Are 16 year olds too young to Marry?

In England you can currently marry at the age of 16, with your parent’s consent. Jennifer Herbert asks is it too young to marry? 

Currently in England both men and women, or shall we say girls and boys, can marry at the age of 16, with their parent’s consent. Many will say this is far too young to marry with or without the consent of a parent. Quite often, young people who marry at the age of 16 miss out on educational opportunities, particularly where they reach the age of 16 before finishing secondary education, in those cases some do not even finish the school year and take their GCSE’s.

There is a private members Bill currently going through parliament to raise the age of consent to marry or enter into a civil partnership, for both men and women, to 18 years old.

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill received its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday 21st October 2016. At this stage there will have been a general debate on all aspects of the Bill. The date for the next stage, the committee stage, at which there will be a line by line reading and examination of the Bill, is yet to be announced.

This Bill was introduced to parliament by Baroness Tonge and concentrates on the problems in marriages of young persons between the ages of 16-18. The Bill also seeks to create an offence of causing a person under the age of 18 to enter into a marriage or civil partnership, which is in line with The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 which made forced marriage a criminal offence.

It is hoped that the Bill will assist in preventing forced marriages, particularly in circumstances where young people marry between the ages of 16-18 with their parent’s encouragement and, so as to not disappoint their family, these young people go along with the marriage consensually regardless of their own wishes/feelings. If this Bill is passed, these marriages will be no more.

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Partner advises on strategic best practice

Alembic Strategy was delighted to be joined by Catherine Polli for a webinar on strategic planning at the Law Society.

Alembic Strategy was delighted to be joined by Catherine Polli, a Partner at Pinney Talfourd for the second webinar in a series of three at the Law Society. These were aimed at helping Lexcel firms respond effectively to the strategic planning component on the Lexcel Standard (v6).

Catherine explained how the use of strategic planning has been crucial in driving growth and performance over that past few years at Pinney Talfourd. The strategic planning process is driven by the 2020 Business Plan which covers all aspects of the firm’s growth up to 2020, from the number of partners and fee earners, the culture of the firm and fee income growth, with an emphasis on staff focused objectives to allow everyone to play a role in achieving goals set. Good communication of this plan is vital in achieving it.

This strategic planning was proven very effective and Pinney Talfourd has just been recommended in an outstanding ten categories by Legal 500 UK 2016. We are also shortlisted for the Private Client Practice Award at the Law Society’s Legal Excellence Awards.

More Information

If you would like more information please contact us on 01708 229444  (Upminster or Hornchurch), 01277 211755 (Brentwood office) or 01702 418433 (Leigh-on-Sea). 


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Family Department lead the way in Legal 500 rankings

Legal 500 UK results have just been announced and the Family Law team are celebrating a move up to Tier 2 in the rankings.

We are delighted to announce that the Family Law Department are now ranked as Tier 2 firm by Legal 500 UK 2016

Leading firm in brentwood and havering

This means that we are now the leading firm in our local boroughs of Havering and Brentwood, beating stiff competition from other firms in Romford and Brentwood.

Our team includes members of the Law Society’s Family Panel and Advanced Family Panel, accredited Resolution specialists and Collaborative Family Lawyers.

Legal 500 UK writes “Catherine Polli and Sebastian Burrows at Pinney Talfourd LLP are singled out as being ‘excellent, intelligent and thoughtful solicitors’.”

notable cases

  • Court of Appeal Children Act proceedings for leave to remove from the jurisdiction
  • High Court case reported in the nationl press. Successful application was made to rescind the Decree Nisi upon the basis of bigamy
  • Financial Remedy Proceedings involving assets circa £10million involving company valuations.

The Legal 500 rankings are carefully selected after rigorous assessment and provide a guide to the top legal providers across the UK.

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Family lawyers set to lobby Parliament

Members of Resolution plan to lobby Parliament on 30th November 2016 to raise awareness of numerous issues within family law.

Resolution is an organisation of 6,500 members, mainly family lawyers but also other professionals in England and Wales who are committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes. Resolution members promote a sensitive and cost-effective approach to resolving family disputes. The members are trained to come up with solutions that consider the needs of the whole family and resolve the dispute in the least acrimonious way.

The current chair of the organisation is arranging an event for all members to attend at Westminster to lobby Parliament for the day. The lobby day is planned to take place on 30th November 2016 and Resolution are calling for all members country-wide to pledge their support and attend.

The organisation’s aim is to raise awareness of the current issues in family law that Resolution feel need to be addressed by the government. Resolution have for some time been calling for change in the legislation of a number of areas such as; the introduction of no fault divorce, access to justice for vulnerable people and better rights for cohabiting couples.

The lobby day will give members the opportunity to meet with MPs and discuss the issues in detail and hopefully influence the government’s decision to make the policies that Resolution feel are required to move family law forward.

The family lawyers here at Pinney Talfourd are members of Resolution and plan to support their organisation and take part in the lobby day.

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Not such a quicky divorce? Here's why...

The idea of a quick divorce is a thing of the past with the introduction of a new system that can't cope with demand, says family law Partner Catherine Loadman.

In June 2015 the Government set up 11 divorce centres across England and Wales to deal with the issue and administration of new divorces. For London and the South East, a huge geographical area, all divorces begin in Bury St Edmunds divorce centre rather than the local family court. It was thought that, once up and running Bury St Edmunds would deal with 40% of the divorce work in England and Wales.

12 months on, the first statistics have been published and they make worrying reading - indicating that the number of divorces issued in the last 12 months far exceeds the levels that were anticipated or planned for.

By way of example, every day they receive;

  • 250 -300 new divorce petitions
  • 1200 items of post
  • 700 phone calls

It is anticipated the Bury St Edmunds are likely to be issuing between 40,000 to 45,000 new divorce petitions in the 12 months it has been open.

In the wake of these figures, Resolution, the national organisation for family lawyers has stated that the divorce centres are under “significant strain”. 

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School holidays cause stress for separated parents

School holidays for separated parents are not always plain sailing. Courts and law firms see a huge rise in children related enquiries in holidays. 

As the summer holidays were heating up so were disputes between separated parents. September is set to be a busy month for new children matters being issued at the court with the school summer holidays kicking up all kinds of disputes.

Parents often find school holidays, whether it is Summer, Easter or Christmas the most difficult times of the year. During the long summer break parents find themselves arguing about when and for how long each of them should spend with the children and whether or not either parent can travel abroad with their children for the purpose of a holiday.

Despite the court rule changes in 2014 requiring that disputing parents attend mediation prior to issuing any court application, save for urgent or exempt applications, the stats from the Court advisory service (CAFCASS) show that parental disputes are still on the rise.

In July 2016, CAFCASS received 3,468 new cases and the number of new cases received in the first quarter of the current financial year is up by nearly 10% compared to last year. August figures will no doubt be just as high.

Our family law specialists are trained to advise and assist parents in these situations to resolve matters, whether that be by way of negotiation or via the court. The team includes members of the Law Society’s Family Panel and Advanced Family Panel, accredited Resolution specialists and Collaborative Family Lawyers.

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California Dreamin’ - no fault divorce

Sebastian Burrows explains why Resolution is leading the fight for no-fault divorces to be reinstated on the statute books in the Californian irreconcilable differences model.


Time flies. 20 years have passed since a no-fault route to divorce landed on the statute books and was then promptly removed. While divorce is possible after 2 years separation – without blame – there is still the wait. 2 years is a long limbo period. 

Urban myth is rife in the law. The notion of Common Law spouses is just such an example that often requires us to deliver hard advice to clients who have held that belief, often for decades. So too the idea that a couple can divorce on the basis that they simply have irreconcilable differences. We all know what that means, we think, but tough; we can’t use it.

If we can marry without too much trouble while in the delight of love and romance, why can’t it be undone just as simply if the love goes? Financial security is the main answer. The law is there to ensure financial security for a divorcing couple. But is the idea that dissolving a marriage with less distress, exposes people to financial risk? No. The hurdle is the law striking a balance between the religious significance of marriage and ensuring human compassion.

English law is a finely tuned, ever developing machine. But in the field of divorce, it would seem that an increasingly secular society and family is developing faster and we are dealing with outdated technology that risks causing serious animosity between a couple when what they want is help, not (more) heartache.

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When Surrogacy goes wrong......

This summer the High Court in London was tasked with deciding a case where a surrogacy agreement that had gone wrong. 

These types of cases rarely come to court as the UK law provides no protection to any person entering into a surrogacy agreement and the parties are usually at the outset very aware of the lack of legal regulation.

It is only when a child is born in a surrogacy situation and there is a dispute that the court may become involved. The dispute will be dealt with as all other matters relating to children are in that the court will assess what is in the best interests of the child and make a determination accordingly.

Entering into a surrogacy agreement provides no guarantee for either party if things go wrong and therefore the most important advice we lawyers can give is that disputes should be avoided at all costs. Of course this is easier said than done, however there does remain a number of successful surrogacy arrangements in the UK each year.

The case that was recently before the courts involved a surrogacy agreement between a young and vulnerable woman and a male same sex couple who had met via a Facebook forum. This particular arrangement began to show cracks in the early stages. The couple were judged to have been dismissive of the surrogate’s feelings and had viewed her as no more than a service provider. When the child was born the surrogate refused to consent to the couple having the required parental order made in their favour and for the child to live with them. The Judge even considered that the surrogate may have never really fully understood the process. The Judge therefore had the difficult task of deciding who this child should live with; the surrogate woman, who was not the biological mother of the child, or the couple - one of whom was the biological father.

The Judge determined that the child should remain living with the surrogate mother as she was best placed to meet the child’s emotional needs. The Judge was critical of the couple and found that they were unable to accept the bond that the child had made with the surrogate mother and expressed his concern that if the child was to be placed in their care they would not allow the relationship between the child and the surrogate to continue. He therefore ordered that the child should remain living with the surrogate mother and spend time with the couple just one weekend in eight.

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A financial settlement 20 years after divorce

The ex-wife of a successful businessman has been awarded a lump sum payment of £300,000 nearly 20 years after the couple divorced.  
The parties had met as students in their early 20s, married in 1981, separated a few years thereafter and divorced in 1992.

Mr Vince then went on to set up a business which has an estimated worth in excess of £50million.

Mrs Wyatt took legal action against her former husband 25 years after they separated, and 19 years after they had divorced, commencing her application in 2011. She had initially demanded £1.9million but had her claim thrown out as an abuse of process. On appeal the Supreme Court allowed her application to proceed, albeit commenting that her demand for £1.9 million was wholly unrealistic.

The parties have now reached an agreement that has been approved by a High Court Family Judge. A payment is to be made to Mrs Wyatt in the sum of £300,000 although it is likely that most if not all of this sum is going to be eaten up by Mrs Wyatt’s legal costs.

What this means for others

Mr Sheville, a Partner in the Family Law Department at Pinney Talfourd commented “although this case resulted in a settlement, the terms of the agreement still had to be approved by the Court, whose function is to ensure that the agreement is fair and reasonable. It is not a simple ‘rubber stamping’ exercise. In coming to his decision to approve the settlement, the Judge would have needed to consider a number of factors including the financial needs and resources of the parties, the passage of time and what in all the circumstances would be fair”

Mr Sheville further commented “this ruling should not be considered as a means for former spouses to bring financial claims against their former husband or wife just because the former husband or wife has gone on to be financially successful in later years. Every case will of course turn on its own facts and it is important to note that there is no ‘second bite at the cherry’ as one cannot, save in the most extreme circumstances, re-visit a final order.

More Information

If you would like more information please contact our Family Law Department on 01708 229444 or book a free initial family consultation using our online booking form.

This article was written by Michael Sheville, Family Law solicitor and Partner at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at June 2016.


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Naming a Child - can the courts intervene?

If you were thinking of naming your child after a notorious poison, think again! Court of Appeal bans mother from naming her child 'Cyanide'.
Following a recent judgement in the Court of Appeal parents are given fair warning to think very carefully before naming their child something which may be construed as emotionally harmful. 

Lady Justice King in the Court of Appeal has banned a mother from naming her child ‘Cyanide’. The Family court at Swansea initially ordered that the mother of twin children, a boy and a girl, could not name them ‘Cyanide’ and ‘Preacher’ and put in place an injunction preventing her from doing so. The mother was determined to name her children as she so pleased and took her case to the Court of Appeal.

The mother was suffering from a psychotic disorder and schizophrenia, worsened by her abuse of drugs and alcohol. The court therefore had to determine whether her parenting capacity was so impaired that the court could intervene and actually prevent a mother, with parental responsibility, from registering a child with any name she chooses.

Lady Justice King gave judgement in the Court of Appeal upholding the decision of the lower court. The court decided that the name ‘Cyanide’ would cause such significant emotional harm to the child that it was right to interfere with the mother’s choice of name. Lady Justice King confirmed that the court does have the power to prevent a parent from giving their child a specific name in extreme cases only, and only with the authorization of a High court judge.

If you are interested and want to read the full judgement, the case citation is C (Children) [2016] EWCA Civ 364.

This case reminds us of the nine year old girl named by her parents ‘Talula Does the Hula from Hawaii’. In this 2008 New Zealand case the parents temporarily lost care of their own daughter for giving her that name.

Interestingly, in New Zealand, parents have been allowed to register their child’s name as; Midnight; Chardonnay; Violence; Number 16 Bus Shelter and twins named Benson and Hedges.

Parents to be, be warned, by following the apparent trend and in the footsteps of a number of celebrities, if you are considering naming your child something completely off the wall please do give consideration to the emotional impact this may have on your child or else face the intervention of the court.

More information

If you would like more information please contact our Family Law Department on 01708 229444 or book a free initial family consultation using our online booking form.

This article was written by Jennifer Herbert, Family Law solicitor at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at April 2016.

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For Richer, For Poorer - Family Court Fees Hike

In the wake of George Osborne’s Budget this week, it has been announced that some Court fees will increase.
While on the face of it an increase might chime with the idea that prices usually go up rather than down, for Pinney Talfourd's Family Law Department the effect of the Divorce Petition fee increase is more complex. From Monday 21 March, the Divorce Petition fee will increase by 34% from £410 to £550. There was no warning of this.

Divorce is a legal course of action that is rarely approached with joy. It is a difficult decision. Sometimes couples fall out of love and agree it as a best course of action. More commonly however it follows a painful period in people’s lives. Paying a considerable sum to start this exercise will do nothing to abate stress, anxiety or the financial challenge of dividing a combined life into two separate lives, usually with several children to put first.

There is of course the argument that HM Courts & Tribunals Service is under unprecedented strain and threat of cut backs. The Petition fee increase will indeed help in the administration of divorces. They will be able to turn them around faster and the Courts will work more efficiently. However, divorce is a unique legal course of action. Increasing the fees places a higher brick wall in front of those in need of legal assistance in their personal lives at the most difficult of times. Of course there are exemptions from fees but these are limited and the process of being granted an exemption can itself be time consuming and stressful.

The Pinney Talfourd Family Law Department  are all active members of Resolution, whose 6,500 members are committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes following a Code of Practice that promotes a non-confrontational approach. One of the firm’s family law solicitors, Sebastian Burrows, who is also Chair of Resolution Essex, says “Resolution fights hard to dampen the flames of divorce. A fee increase simply adds more petrol.”

Of all the legal procedures, a divorce in which there is scope for a non-confrontational solution merits fee relief. Higher fees will potentially leave people stranded in the position they need to escape. Otherwise it forces people to tackle complex legal matters alone, in turn burdening the Courts Service.

Richard Bacon MP is pushing his Private Members Bill to implement a No-Fault Divorce further to dampen the flames at this highly sensitive time. The Californians have ‘Irreconcilable Differences’ as a route to divorce. To obtain a divorce in this country requires the Petitioner to prove one of the ‘five facts’, 3 of which require the parties having lived apart for over 2 years and there is no ‘catch all ground’ for those only recently or not yet separated.

It seems that this particular court fee hike is steering the divorce ship away from it’s path towards amicable solutions and financial efficiency into old stormy seas.

More information

If you would like more information on your options in light of this fee increase please contact our Family Law Department on 01708 229444 or book a free initial family consultation using our online booking form.

This article was written by Sebastian Burrows, Family Law solicitor at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors and Chair of Resolution Essex  The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at March 2016.

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New Solicitor joins Family Law Team

Jennifer Herbert joins the award winning family law team at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors in Essex.
Pinney Talfourd is delighted to announce that Jennifer Herbert has joined our Family Law Department.

Jennifer qualified in 2010 after training in London at international law firm Mackrell Turner Garrett before being retained in their family department.

Jennifer is an Associate Solicitor and will be based in our Upminster office. Jennifer practices in all aspects of family law but has a particular interest in cohabitation cases.

An experienced family lawyer, Jennifer is an active member of Resolution and a qualified collaborative lawyer.

Outside of work, Jennifer is a sports enthusiast who enjoys running and watching football and boxing.

She will be the 8th member of the award winning team, making it one of the largest in Essex.

Our Family Law Department is recognised as one of the leading family law departments in the UK by the Legal 500, an independent and definitive guide to the best law firms in the UK.
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Dishonesty in divorce no longer tolerated

What can you do if you suspect your spouse concealed some of their assets during your divorce in order to reduce the amount they had to pay you?

When a couple divorce, there is a complex procedure known as disclosure. Both spouses have to sign a financial statement revealing the full extent of their income and assets to each other before they agree how to divide their finances. Previously, once a financial agreement had been ratified by the court as a consent order, it would rarely be overturned, save for very limited circumstances.

In October 2015 the Supreme Court ruled that such concealment amounted to ‘fraudulent misrepresentation’ and permitted two spouses to return to court to renegotiate their divorce settlements.

Catherine Polli, Head of the Family Law Department at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors in Essex, says ‘the implications of these two cases are very important – as they allow any spouse who believes that they have been cheated out of their rightful financial settlement to challenge the original court order. They should speak to a specialist family lawyer for advice on their particular circumstances.’

The two women, Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil, had both made divorce settlements in good faith with their husbands, only later to find out that they had been deliberately misled about their financial worth.

In 2010 Alison Sharland, from Wilmslow in Cheshire, signed a consent order accepting a divorce settlement from her then husband Charles of £10 million and 30 per cent of the net proceeds of the sale of his company, whenever that took place. Charles owned his own software company, which was valued at £47 million at the time of the divorce on the basis that he had no plans to sell it.

Mrs Sharland later discovered the company was actively being prepared for sale on the stock market at an estimated worth of £600 million. The Supreme Court considered the principle that ‘fraud unravels all’ and found that Mrs Sharland was the victim of fraudulent misrepresentation and she would not have consented to the original order if she had known the truth. The case will now go back to the family court for Mrs Sharland’s settlement to be re-examined.

In a separate case heard at the same time, Varsha Gohil from London accepted £270,000 in her divorce settlement only later to find out that she could have got much more. Her husband later admitted to intentionally misleading the court and Mrs Gohil about the extent of his wealth, when he was found guilty of fraud and money laundering of £37 million. The financial settlement was set aside and will again be returned to the family court.

If you believe that your ex was dishonest about their finances at the time of your divorce, you should take legal advice immediately. Pinney Talfourd Solicitors can help you to make further enquiries and even enlist the services of professionals, such as private investigators and forensic accountants.

For more information about divorce settlements and disclosure please click here to contact our Family Law Department or call 01708 299444.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice, and the law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice on their own particular circumstances.

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