Divorce does not have to cost the earth

  • Posted

Posted 19/05/2015

Ian Winterbone 1397335657_IanWinterboneCPX.jpg

Anything to do with a legal process comes at a cost. Divorce and separation issues are no different. Although a legal bill will be the inevitable outcome, steps can be taken to avoid those costs being excessive.

More and more, the Judges in the High Court and Court of Appeal in London are criticising parties coming before them for the often blinkered approach that they perceive is being adopted towards the incurring of legal costs. The litigation appears to take on a momentum of its own and huge sums are spent.

One Judge recently admonished a couple on hearing that legal bills could amount to one million pounds, describing the case “its like a boxing match. It does not have to be like this. It should never have got this far. Think what each of you could have done with one million pounds. Just think. You should not be going on like this. Frankly its very very unedifying”.

The Judge urged the parties and their lawyers to have a “serious discussion” to see if a settlement could be negotiated.

Not all divorces and separation issues have to end up in Court for a Judge to make a decision. To keep costs to a minimum, Courts should only be used to give formal approval to a settlement that parties have been able to achieve between themselves or with their lawyers negotiating along side them.

Lawyers who belong to Resolution (www.resolution.org.uk) will always promote consensual discussions between couples rather than the pursuit of litigation.

There are various alternatives available:-

1. Mediation; this is a process where an independent third party mediator is appointed to meet with the couple on their own, to try and broker an agreement between them. The parties then have legal advice coming in from their lawyer in the background. Hopefully, this leads on to an agreement which is then documented in an appropriate manner to make it binding.

2. Collaboration; this is where there are discussions with parties but with lawyers present at the same time. They all commit not to place issues for decision in to Court. If the process breaks down, or if a party decides to litigate, then the Collaboration will terminate and the parties must instruct new lawyers. This provision will usually operate as a powerful incentive to reach an agreement rather than face the prospect of Court, losing your trusted lawyer, and having to start again with another lawyer.

3. Round table co-operation; again, couples and lawyers take part in discussions on a round table basis, but with no incentive as in Collaboration.

All of these various alternative courses of action are available at Ashtons Legal or most family law practices.

Even if matters cannot be agreed between couples, a developing area of family law involves an Arbitrator being appointed to hear the opposing arguments and then to make a decision which is usually binding upon them.

Any of the above courses of action are worthwhile pursuing if parties wish to talk, rather than litigate. They will also limit the exposure to the legal costs being incurred.

For individual advice from our Family team, please contact Ashtons Legal on 0330 404 0773.


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