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Civil partner allowed posthumous disclosure challenge

The Court of Appeal has allowed a woman to challenge the financial settlement she was offered by her former civil partner who has since died.

Helen Roocroft and Carol Ainscow were together for 19 years and in 2008 entered into a civil partnership but separated the following year. Their partnership was officially dissolved in 2010.

Ainscow was the breadwinner in the relationship and was even on The Times’ Rich List in 2009. However, at the time of the dissolution she claimed her finances had been seriously diminished by the global recession. She insisted that only a fraction of her wealth was available to share with her former partner.

Although Roocroft did not believe this was the case, she did not have the funds to continue a legal challenge and eventually accepted a settlement which involved a small sum of money. Following Ainscow’s death in 2013, her former partner renewed her objections.

She claimed Ainscrow’s estate was worth much more than the court had been led to believe in 2010. Therefore she asked the courts to set aside the original order so she could seek greater financial provision. However she was unsuccessful at first, as the judge ruled she had entered into the original deal with her eyes open.

Roocroft was not satisfied and took her case to the Court of Appeal. Her legal team cited several high profile non-disclosure cases such as Sharland v Sharland and Gohil v Gohil. In both of those instances, the wives alleged their husbands had withheld the true extent of their wealth when they divorced. As a result, they were told by the Supreme Court they could appeal their settlements. The legal team argued that Roocroft’s challenge should similarly be allowed.

The Court of Appeal agreed with this assessment. Lady Justice King said the original judge had “erred in summarily dismissing the application” and had “failed to address … whether the non-disclosure was deliberate or inadvertent”. She ruled that Roocroft’s appeal must be allowed. The decision was supported by Lords Justice Kitchin and Elias.

Read the full decision here.

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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