Woman Seeks Bigger Slice Of Ex-Civil Partner's Fortune


The Law Of... getting a fair share after a separation

Following their split in 2010, a woman has claimed her former civil partner misled her about the size of a £6m fortune. The Court of Appeal has granted permission for her case to be heard, one that will set a new precedent in gay 'divorce' settlements.

Woman Seeks Bigger Slice Of Ex-Civil Partner’s Fortune

Jane Auty, Head of Family Law with Simpson Millar, looks at the case and explains what makes it unique in UK law.

Hiding Assets

What makes this case particularly distinctive is that it involves a civil partnership and a defendant who has since passed away.

When the civil partnership of Helen Roocroft and Carol Ann Ainscow was dissolved in 2010, Ms Roocroft agreed to a settlement of £162,000.

Ms Ainscow, a Property Developer who played a key role in regenerating the Canal Street district of Manchester, claimed at the time the recession had wiped out her fortune and her remaining assets were worth little more than £750,000.

Following Ms Ainscow’s death from a brain tumour in 2013, Ms Roocroft discovered that her civil partner had in fact been the sole shareholder in Artisan Holdings, which, at the time of their split, was worth £5.5m.

Ms Ainscow left no will, meaning the bulk of her remaining fortune went to her mother, but permission has been granted for Ms Roocroft to pursue a claim for a greater slice of the deceased's fortune at the Court of Appeal. Lady Justice Black stated:

"Ms Ainscow had a duty to make a full and fair disclosure at the time of dissolution, allowing Ms Roocroft to decide how to proceed and the court to exercise discretion."

A Landmark Ruling

What marks this out as a landmark case is its unique circumstances. Divorce settlements are a backbone of the legal profession, but the combination of a civil partnership, the size of the fortune at stake and the deceased status of the defendant means many in legal circles will be awaiting the ruling with anticipation.

Jane Auty says:

"This is what is known as a material non-disclosure case, which are common in insurance fraud. In this instance, it means that Ms Ainscow failed to fully disclose the amount of her assets, therefore misleading her ex-partner into accepting a lower settlement."

"It highlights the fact that when a relationship breaks down, there will always be a partner willing to try and avoid his or her legal obligations. This is shown by the amount of people we see being either obstructive or downright dishonest when it comes to divorce cases."

"What is worth noting is that the courts have been coming down hard on people who try to hide their worth via such measures."

"In this instance, there is a very good chance the appeal court will rule in favour of the plaintiff."

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