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Former civil partner granted permission to appeal financial settlement

The former civil partner of the late property developer and entrepreneur Carol Ann Ainscow has been granted permission to take her case against Ms Ainscow’s estate to the Court of Appeal. In granting the appeal, Lady Justice Black called the case ‘unique’ and it is thought to be the first lesbian ‘divorce’ case to reach the Court of Appeal.

Ms Helen Roocroft, who was in a relationship with Ms Ainscow for 19 years, is seeking to reopen her financial claim against Ms Ainscow’s estate. It is Ms Roocroft’s case that Ms Ainscow misrepresented the extent of her wealth during court proceedings brought in connection with the dissolution of their civil partnership, causing her to accept a significantly lower settlement than she was entitled to.

During the parties’ relationship, Ms Ainscow was heralded for transforming Manchester’s Canal Street into a trendy gay village. Ms Ainscow opened ‘Manto’, one of the City’s first openly gay bars, before developing properties across the North of England.

The couple entered into a civil partnership in 2008 and separated the following year. Their Civil Partnership was dissolved in August 2010. During the original financial proceedings, Ms Ainscow claimed that her business Artisan Holdings, of which she was the sole shareholder, had been hard hit by the recession and the value of her assets had depreciated to £750,000. In reliance of this Ms Roocroft accepted a lump sum of £162,000 in full satisfaction of her financial claims.

It was only after Ms Ainscow’s death that Ms Roocroft discovered Business Accounts putting the value of Ms Ainscow’s business closer to £6 million. Ms Roocroft is now seeking to claim that she would not have agreed to the settlement had this information been disclosed in the financial proceedings. As Ms Aisncow died without making a will, her elderly mother is entitled to her estate.

Her Ladyship reasoned ‘It is surely arguable that there is a public interest in not supporting those who mislead others, in particular the Court.’ It is thought that the outcome of the appeal will be dependent on the outcome of two linked appeals of Sharland and Gohil set to be decided at the Supreme Court later this year.

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

Beverley Jones

Partner - Head of Family Department (Liverpool)

Heading the family team in Liverpool, I am a family and matrimonial expert who deals with all aspects of family law.