I appeared on London’s Biggest Conversation at 97.3 FM on Friday evening.
The subject of the conversation? A good divorce.
Well, to put it more accurately, whether or not it is possible to have a good divorce.
I think it is but when chatting on air it reminded me of a new article that my father sent to me from The Times of 20 September 2012.
It was titled: “Lawyers squander their family fortune fighting each other in divorce costs”
The couple were heavily criticised by the judge for “wrecking the ship of their marriage, then turning their attention to the life boats”.
Not content with that the couple went to the Court of Appeal who told:
“This is a very sad case in which the parties have spent almost all of their money on litigation”.
Ironically, the husband was a partner at a law firm and worst still a litigation lawyer.
The couple lived in a £3.2 million house but years of an acrimonious divorce left them with only £90,000.
I would like to say that this is unusual. Yes, to a certain extent it is but we only need to rewind the clock to 2008 when Mr Justice Munby as he then was said in the case of KSO v MSO;
“80. The picture is deeply dispiriting. And it is not as if it is only the adults who suffer from the consequences of such folly. The luckless children do as well. The present case is a sobering, and for me deeply saddening, example. If, instead of spending – squandering – over £430,000 in costs, the wife and the husband had been able to resolve their differences at a more modest and, dare I say it, more seemly level of costs, there might very well have been enough left in the matrimonial ‘pot’ to house the wife and children and to enable the children to remain at their school, whilst still leaving something more than a mere consolation prize over for the husband. As it is, it is hard to see much being left from the wreck, not least after the trustee in bankruptcy has had his costs, expenses and remuneration. It is difficult not to be reminded at this point of Jarndyce v Jarndyce (see the Appendix). And the wife and the husband – and for this purpose I refer to them as the mother and the father, for that is what they are – are faced now with the wretched and thankless task of trying to explain to their daughters how it has all come to this.
81. Something must be done about the problems highlighted by this and by too many similar cases. We simply cannot go on as we are. The expenditure of costs on the scale exemplified by this and by too many other such cases is a scandal which must somehow be brought under control.”
The full report can be seen at here.
Lessons learnt? I don’t think so but the legal landscape is changing. Fixed price divorces are more common nowadays together with other divorce online services. This challenge to the traditional way of dealing with a divorce and how divorce advice is to be obtained won’t necessarily be welcomed by the legal profession but change is inevitable.
When I first qualified as a divorce solicitor I was told by a senior partner: “where there are people there are disputes”. That is and will always be true. Like anything in life everything should be dealt with in moderation. A cheap £50 internet divorce might be suitable for one person and a more tailored divorce service maybe suitable for the next. What there should never be are such costs as those reported divorce cases highlight, whatever the net asset base might be, which are so high and disproportionate to what is at a stake. This is commercial madness.
A good divorce? Yes, of course there can be. Most couples can communicate, listen to divorce legal advice; and importantly listen to each other. Therein lies the resolution.
What no-one wants is the situation of the couple reported in The Times where one party has been given a financial lifeline (just about) and the other is left holding to a mooring buoy waiting to be saved.
We are all the masters of our own destiny.
Maguire Family Law is a specialist firm of Family Law and Divorce Law solicitors based in Wilmslow, Cheshire. We offer legal advice to parties going through a divorce including the financial issues which flow from this and children matters including child maintenance.
We can also advise on Schedule1 Children Act 1989 applications.