Family Court refuses to vary an ‘unsealed’ Court Order


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A wife has lost her recent application to return to court where Heads of Agreement and a Consent Order had been approved, but not sealed by a Court.The particular facts in that case found that a Final Hearing in Financial Proceedings had been listed to take place in July of last year, but pleasingly the parties had managed to reach a settlement out of court, with the assistance of their legal representation. As is often the case, a document known as a Heads Of Agreement was drawn up bullet pointing the key agreements and from this document a Consent Order was drawn up, and approved by the Court but crucially the Wife believed, was not sealed with the Court stamp.The main point in dispute concerned the Husband’s shareholding in a Company, and whether or not it could be shared between the Husband and the Wife.

The agreement reached by the parties provided the Wife with substantively more of the capital assets – some £10.35m to the Husband’s £5.64m – so this was a ‘big money’ case.  The Husband had also agreed to pay to the Wife 30% of the balance of proceeds of the share sale after payment of costs and CGT, with £4m going in trust to one of the children and a payment of £1.7m to the Wife.  Various other agreements as to transfer of property, bank accounts, and periodical payments were also contained in the agreement.

The Wife discovered that detailed planning had been undertaken for a flotation of the company, valuing the company somewhere between $750m and $1bn.  The Wife applied back to court, but by this time the draft Order had been approved by the Court, although not sealed.The Husband maintained he had provided full disclosure, and that any non-disclosure as to his knowledge of the flotation was not material, additionally he dismissed the valuations as “pure conjecture”.

Sir Hugh Bennett in his judgement, dismissed the Husband’s argument about his non-disclosure, finding that the husband had knowledge about the flotation which he had dishonestly tried to keep from the Wife.  He stated that had the information been known to the Court, it would have had no alternative but to adjourn the hearing pending an IPO (initial public offering) of the company. However, he also stated that as an IPO still had not taken place by the time of the matter being brought back to court, the Order the Court would have made would not have been substantially different to that which the parties had agreed and accordingly held that the draft Order should be sealed by the court, in its current format without further hesitation.

For further reading on this case please go to

Although this case relates to a case involving big money, the underlying sentiments are applicable across the board.
It is very important when reaching agreements that all of the circumstances are considered.

Ian Davies, and the matrimonial team of lawyers, at Hine Solicitors can ensure that you are fully advised as to how to ensure your circumstances are protected, and that the right agreement is put in place for you.

If you would like to discuss this article, or for advice or more information about your circumstances, please contact Ian Davies on either 01865 514348 or email

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