Court refuses to re-open divorce

Posted: 9th May 2013

In the context of a ‘big money’ divorce, a wife has failed to convince the High Court that the financial aspects of the case should be re-opened – despite a judicial finding that her husband deliberately suppressed relevant documents and information and was dishonest about his business plans.

Country EstateThe parties had agreed a settlement in the midst of an ancillary relief hearing whereby the wife and the husband respectively received property and assets worth over £10.3 million and more than £5.6 million. The husband’s shares in a company were valued at up to £47.25 million and agreement was also reached in respect of the distribution of the proceeds were a sale of those shares achieved.

Prior to the settlement, the husband had testified under oath in court that there were no immediate plans to realise his shares in the company through a public flotation. Within a few months of the settlement, the wife applied to the court to re-open the case on the basis that that evidence was false.

The court found that, whatever the husband’s misgivings or doubts about a public offering may have been, plans for a flotation ‘were in full swing’ by the time that he gave his evidence. He had sought to suppress the true facts in an attempt to reduce his wife’s potential entitlements and his evidence on the point ‘could only be categorised as dishonest’.

Refusing the wife’s application to set aside the settlement and re-open the case, the court noted that a flotation of the company planned for early 2013 had not in fact gone ahead. Notwithstanding that the husband had failed in his duty to fully and frankly disclose relevant facts to the court, that failure was ‘not material’ in the circumstances and did not justify a further hearing.