The Rich and Famous Finally Show Us That Divorce Can Be Amicable

14th Jun 2019

The news in the past couple of days has contained full details of the divorce of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and how it has left his wife the world’s third richest woman.

However, it was not the headline that impressed me but, rather, the small print that revealed how the couple worked together to remain amicable and will continue to do so.  In today’s world of the media enjoying reporting on the most acrimonious of divorces it is refreshing!

So, what does this tell us? That even the highest net worth divorces can be resolved amicably!

I know that numerous potential clients are reluctant to consult lawyers regarding their separation because we come with the idea, unfortunately, that that’s when things start to go wrong and become acrimonious. Indeed, very often the main thing that a client says to me is that they don’t want to be arguing about it – they want it to be straightforward.

So, what are the options available to couples who are separating on amicable terms and wish to resolve financial matters as amicably as possible?

There are a number of ways of reaching a financial settlement without acrimony.  These are as follows but before I expand on them it is important to note that they all rely on both parties being honest about their financial positions and providing full and frank disclosure of this to the other party.

So, what are the main options?

  1. Using Solicitors (hopefully members of Resolution!)

Both parties instruct their own solicitors to liaise and resolve financial matters for them. The advantage of this scenario is that the lawyers know what they’re doing (hopefully!) and can, therefore, manage their client’s expectations.

The solicitors know what, in reality, is a fair and reasonable settlement for both parties and can advise accordingly.

Both parties receive individual legal advice and support.

As long as both parties are honest and up front there is no reason why this should be a drawn out process and so costs should be limited.  Costs increase in cases where matters become acrimonious and one party does not disclose what they should which results in a lack of trust.

  1. Attending mediation

With this option the parties can be referred to mediation, or make their own referral. An advantage of this option is that legal aid is still available for those people on lower incomes and who would struggle to meet legal fees.  The mediator’s role is to help the parties negotiate a financial settlement between themselves which they are both happy with.  Both parties are able to obtain their own independent legal advice throughout the process and once an agreement is reached this can be drawn into a consent order by solicitors, which is legally binding.

Ideally, this option should be cheaper than using solicitors from day one but I have been concerned recently about some extremely high charges being made in this area.  So shop around!

  1. Using a collaborative lawyer

A collaborative lawyer is one who is a skilled mediator and who works with another collaborative lawyer to help the parties reach an agreement.  It is a mixture of options one and two above and involves the parties signing up to a collaborative process which involves a number of round the table meetings to reach a settlement.  Should the negotiations break down the solicitors have to step down and the parties have to find alternative representation.  The idea behind this is that there is, therefore, an incentive for an agreement to be reached.

Personally, I’m not sure if this is as popular as it was intended to be when introduced as I find that a lot of clients, even those on amicable terms, are sceptical about trying to sort a deal round a table and feel under pressure to do so.  However, it does work for some.

  1. Reaching an agreement between themselves

All clients are advised that any agreement reached with each other is better than one that is ‘forced’ upon them.  However, it is important to note that in the eyes of the court the agreement has to be a ‘reasonable’ one otherwise it won’t receive the court’s approval and therefore won’t be legally binding.

Furthermore, it’s extremely important for the agreement to be drafted into a consent order by solicitors and approved by the court in order to achieve a clean break – otherwise the other party may come back in the future looking for more – and that’s when things do become acrimonious!

I hope that the above has been useful for you.  Should you require any further information then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Victoria Richardson

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