Cohabitee deceived into spending divorce settlement secures damages

In December 2010, a divorce was finalised in relation to Sacher Barker’s marriage, with Ms Barker having secured a financial settlement of £550,000. In 2011, Ms Barker met Richard Winter. Ms Barker claimed that Mr Winter represented to her that he was very wealthy, separated from his wife and in the process of obtaining a divorce himself. Ms Barker said that Mr Winter told her that he could not access his money until this divorce was completed and that Mr Winter offered to gift sufficient money to Ms Barker from his divorce settlement, once finalised.

The parties continued in their relationship, enjoying a particularly lavish lifestyle until early 2015, when the relationship ended. Ms Barker began civil proceedings to recover her outlay throughout the relationship with Mr Barker, initially estimated at exceeding £1,000,000 in cash, jewellery and accrued debt.

The High Court heard evidence from the parties and other family members on the representations made by the parties to one another and considered in detail the payments that would be ordered due to Mr Barker’s deceit, including damages sought by Ms Barker for the distress associated with Mr Barker’s deceit, which were ultimately refused by the court. The court found that Ms Barker had previously been warned by Mr Barker’s sister early in the relationship about his spending habits and addiction to spending, which should have warranted a greater degree of care by Ms Barker, described by the court as being “…the author of her own misfortune…” in some respects.

The case highlights the importance of obtaining independent legal and financial advice post-settlement, in order to protect assets which have accrued over a long period of time. There are very few occasions in life whereby one might anticipate receiving a large capital sum of several thousands of pounds. It is often natural to apply these funds towards a new relationship, but consideration must be given towards protecting an acquired divorce settlement, should the worst happen.

If you would like to discuss issues relating to your separation, divorce or financial affairs following the breakdown of a relationship, contact one of our expert solicitors today on 01234 88977 or 0207 177 9777 for a free consultation. Serving Bedford and London, our lawyers can help you with your family law matters.


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