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Application to reopen divorce settlement rejected by High Court

A woman has failed in her bid to revisit a provisional divorce settlement after a judge ruled that undisclosed details would not have affected the case.

S v S concerned a couple who married in 1993 and had  three children together before parting in 2010. The family was wealthy and after they separated the wife applied for a ‘financial remedy’ settlement from her husband. A provisional, multimillion pound agreement was reached in July 2012 and approved by judge Sir Hugh Bennett. Later, however, allegations arose that the man had not disclosed important information regarding his shareholding in a company which he had founded.

In January of this year, the husband swore an affidavit that he was not guilty of failing to fully declare his finances – legally termed ‘material non-disclosure’ – and that any non-disclosure that had taken place was not ‘material’ (relevant to the settlement).

The wife decided to press ahead with her claim, seeking to revise the settlement before it was made into a binding court order.

Sitting in the Family Division of the High Court, Sir Hugh Bennett concluded that the husband had made “seriously misleading claims” in his earlier submissions regarding the possibility of his company offering shares on the stock market.

Nevertheless, he continued:

“I…conclude that any order which would have been made if proper disclosure had taken place would not have been substantially different from the heads of agreement [provisional agreement] incorporated into the draft….order which I approved.”

The judge added that he husband had shown “an attitude of defiance to his duty of full and frank disclosure.”

“What he ought to have done was to recognise his non-disclosure, and its extent, but nevertheless argue that it was not material. That course of action would have avoided much cost and much time.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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