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LONDON (Reuters) - Two women who claimed their ex-husbands tricked them into accepting smaller divorce settlements should have their cases re-examined to see if they should get more money, Britain's top court said on Wednesday in landmark rulings.
Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohill had argued that they had been misled by their former spouses as to the true extent of their wealth when their divorce claims were settled.
Their cases had both been rejected by Britain's Court of Appeal, but on Wednesday the Supreme Court backed the women, a decision which lawyers said could lead to others seeking to have divorce settlements renegotiated.
"I hope that their decision sends out a message to everyone going through a divorce that they cannot lie in the family courts and get away with it," Sharland said in a statement through her lawyer.
"My legal battle has never been about money. It has always been a matter of principle."
She had accepted a deal in 2012 from her ex-husband Charles Sharland, the chairman and founder of IT firm AppSense, which amounted to 10 million pounds ($15.4 million) in property and cash if she agreed to accept 30 percent of proceeds from any sale of his shares in his company which he valued at between 50 to 75 million pounds.
However, she then learned that he had been in discussions with investment bankers earlier in 2012 regarding plans to float AppSense, and an article in the Wall Street Journal suggested the company's worth to be between $750 million and $1 billion.
In her judgment, Supreme Court judge Brenda Hale said Alison Sharland had been "deprived of a full and fair hearing of her claims" because of his "fraud".
Gohill accepted 270,000 pounds in 2004 after divorcing her ex-husband but later discovered he had hidden his true worth from her after he was charged with money-laundering offences.
"There are no winners in divorce and more than a thought has to be given to the families and the children locked in this type of litigation," Gohill said.
Experts said the verdict could have major repercussions, with James Brown, a partner from law firm JMW Solicitors which represented Charles Sharland saying the case "may open floodgates to couples revisiting divorce agreements".
Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison