Co-founder of Moneysupermarket.com, Richard Mason, set what could be a new precedent for claiming back against a divorce settlement when he successfully recovered £250,000 from a £4 million lump sum payment and on-going maintenance payments to his wife after they divorced in 2008. The case made headlines this month when it was revealed that the out-of-court settlement was agreed after Mr Mason pursued a paternity fraud claim, when he discovered in 2016 that the three children he had raised with his ex-wife could not biologically be his, as he has cystic fibrosis and has been infertile since birth.

It is certainly not unheard of to bring about proceedings to vary maintenance orders, both in terms of increasing and decreasing the agreed payments to be made from husband to wife or vice versa, but Mr Mason's settlement does appear to be the first of its kind because of the paternity fraud element. Could Mr Mason have unwittingly opened the floodgates for future claims of this nature?

Paternity fraud is alarming to think about, both for the unsuspecting father and the children involved, and unfortunately the remedies in law are often lengthy and costly to enforce. There have long been calls to make paternity fraud a criminal offence, due to the significant emotional and financial ramifications of raising a child (or several) you believe incorrectly to be yours, sometimes for decades as was the case for Mr Mason. While claimants like Mr Mason can seek restitution through the civil courts, paternity fraud is still not a crime within itself. However, in 2017, the state did successfully imprison Christopher W in the case of R v W [2017] for 18 months for conspiracy to defraud when he asked another man to provide a sample for him when he was asked to carry out a paternity test.

It may well be too early to say how pivotal Mr Mason's case will be for future paternity fraud claims in relation to divorce settlements, however this, along with the case of R v W [2017], does show a growing trend of treating paternity fraud more seriously. Again, when you consider the emotional and financial consequences for those involved, this change in attitude may well be long overdue and family solicitors should perhaps brace themselves for future Mr Masons.