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20 July 2016

 

In recent years, an increase in spouses of different nationalities battling to have their divorces heard in jurisdictions considered most likely to decide in their favour has given rise to a phenomenon known as “forum shopping”.

But it is another kind of shopping – online grocery shopping to be precise – that has been thrown into sharp relief by national news speculation on the looming divorce of one of the founders of the online grocery delivery firm, Ocado, Tim Steiner, and his wife of 16 years. Perhaps, they wonder, the divorce financial settlement will result in shares in the company changing hands.

According to various reports, Mr Steiner has filed for divorce on the grounds of his wife’s unreasonable behaviour, an assertion which she is said to be contesting.

One article, in The Times, has not only claimed that the dispute between the pair might adversely affect Ocado’s share price and image with customers but could force Mr Steiner to sell some of his stake to fund a settlement.

I believe that the issue might be fuelled by the very recent decision of a High Court judge that the founder of another online retailer, ASOS, should pay his ex-wife £70 million following their divorce (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3483635/Asos-founder-forced-pay-ex-wife-70MILLION.html).

The terms of that divorce financial settlement included deliberation on the division of shares in the fashion business. 

Interest from the media and the money markets is not entirely misplaced. Just over a decade ago, the entrepreneur behind the French Connection store chain was forced to sell £38 million worth of shares in order to pay for his divorce (http://www.theguardian.com/business/2004/jun/30/highstreetretailers).

However, as eager as the courts will be to see Mr and Mrs Steiner come to a resolution and move on with their lives, they will be keen to avoid destablilising a successful business, not least because it could be the principal means of paying for a divorce.

In a number of cases which we have been involved with, businessmen and women unable to fund a divorce from their own assets will establish if it’s possible to borrow money before having to liquidate some or all of their shares.

Leaving aside Mr Steiner’s personal circumstances, he might well have spoken to his fellow directors because they would see their own shareholding affected by any sale.

As well as meeting the priorities of need and fairness, the courts always want to foster creative and equitable solutions. In Tim Steiner’s divorce, it might be allowing him more time to raise the money to achieve a “clean break” settlement, if, of course, he’s not able to do that already.

Whether it is in relation to spouses who have made their money in retail or other industrial sectors, divorce does indeed have the ability to affect business, both in terms of shareholdings and turnover, not least because it can distract directors from the job of running a company.

It is something which people looking to start firms are becoming more conscious of – for instance, taking out pre-nuptial agreements to limit the impact of divorce on their commercial prospects. Whether checking out online or of a marriage, payment details are to be ignored at your peril.

 

Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with a family law adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.

 

Click here to return to the main divorce and family law area.

20 July 2016

The end of a marriage is never an easy thing to contemplate or, indeed, to reflect upon. Regardless of whether the relationship was long or short or whether the process followed emotional fireworks or was handled rather more amicably, people can understandably emerge from it feeling rather bruised.

Those who’ve been through the experience are often sought out for views which might guide others in a similar position. Their opinions are, naturally, also of interest to lawyers whose role it is to advise and support couples facing up to lives as ex-husbands and wives.

It’s why my eyes were drawn to the comments of the former England footballer-turned-television presenter Gary Lineker who divorced for the second time earlier this year.

In an interview with the Radio Times seized upon by numerous national newspapers (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/25/gary-lineker-calls-for-mathematical-equation-to-simplify-costly/), he accused divorce lawyers of being “manipulative” who create “hate” between separating spouses.

Furthermore, he suggested that there should be a “mathematical equation” to simplify the process of divorce and save couples money.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I take issue with what Mr Lineker’s had to say.

I sympathise with anyone whose marriages have come to a close. I particularly applaud those people who, like Mr Lineker and his ex-wife, the model Danielle Bux, appear to have parted on good terms. However and whatever his motive, I believe that he’s quite wrong on a number of points.

During the same interview which has captured the headlines, he described how “it’s very easy to get married and very difficult to get divorced”. As Mr Lineker and Ms Bux now know, that’s not necessarily the case.

It can, of course, be difficult to deal with the emotions involved in divorce but the process itself is actually a rather straightforward administrative exercise.

Most couples, like Gary and Danielle themselves, manage to divorce without any rancour at all. The difficulties only really occur when there are contentious topics, such as children or finances, to deliberate on.

Even then, the job of a divorce lawyer is not to stoke whatever difference of opinion there may be but advise and support a client on the course of action most appropriate to them.

Whilst we might imagine from media coverage that all divorces result in a “courtroom battle”, going before a judge is the very last resort.

For those individuals unable to come to an agreement over the kitchen table or following initial discussions with lawyers, there are the options of collaborative law and mediation, both of which aim to achieve a constructive outcome by discussion alone.

All of those methods can be concluded quickly and fairly cheaply, too. I appreciate Gary Lineker’s pitch (no soccer pun intended!) for an improvement in the system  of divorce but I feel that his “mathematical equation” simply wouldn’t work.

The circumstances and dynamics of divorce are as particular as the people going through it. It is not as though, to coin a well-worn phrase, “one size fits all”.

Any extra administration of the sort implied by Mr Lineker’s suggestion would, I’m sure, not exactly be greeted with glee by courts which are already over-burdened either.

Just as he wouldn’t have enjoyed reading unfair reviews of his performances on the sports pages, divorce lawyers never like seeing criticism which we believe to be unwarranted splashed across the front pages either.

It’s true that we are considered something of a necessary evil by some people but, given the situations that we become involved in, we take the ribbing as part of the job.

Despite Gary Lineker’s views being, in my opinion, very much offside, I’d still invite him to chat through his experiences in order to help other couples achieve their goal of a simple, speedy and pain-free divorce.

 

Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with a family law adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.

 

Click here to return to the main divorce and family law area.

20 July 2016

Getting married is a step not taken lightly.

Whereas previous generations regarded tying the knot and having children as an important and relatively routine part of the process of growing up, that compulsion has been gradually weakening over the course of the last few decades.

There had, admittedly, been something of a rally in the number of men and women getting hitched in recent years, possibly as a result of an improvement in their finances as the country emerged from the recession of 2008. However, the frequency of marriage is on the decline once more, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The ONS has found that, in 2013, there were 240,854 marriages – down 8.6 per cent on the year before.

Arguably the greatest single factor in that drop is the prevailing attitude to marriage among Britons young and old. Whilst marriage is less popular, cohabitation has more than doubled in the space of 20 years.

There were two other strands of data in the new ONS account which caught my eye.

One is the difference in the over-65s to marriage.

Men, especially those who had previously divorced, appear wary of marrying – and perhaps divorcing - again. That contrasts sharply with their female counterparts.

It could be because many divorced women in middle-age and even older will be less financially independent than men, chiefly because they are part of the generation who became housewives rather than pursuing a career. More women in relationships also appear to be outliving their partners and, therefore, their fondness for marriage may be born of a simple desire not to spend their remaining years alone.

Another, more novel element is the role of superstition. I have been talking to the Daily Telegraph about the incidence of couples who either brought forward or postponed marriages rather than wed in 2013 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/27/unlucky-for-some-superstition-could-have-caused-drop-in-weddings/).

I know of a number of men and women who did just that because of something called ‘triskaidekaphobia’ - a fear that the number 13 really is unlucky.

It’s a phenomenon which, of course, is already founded on a rich seam of superstition linked to the marriage ceremony itself. Think of perceived omens connected to the weather, the colour of a bride’s dress, dropping a wedding ring and the old chestnut of having “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue”.

I don’t wish to question the wisdom of those who err on the side of caution mindful of the risk of joining the ranks of the divorced.

In my experience, what happens in the home and the workplace has a greater effect on whether marriages last the course than rituals and rabbits’ feet. What is clear, though, is that superstition provides yet another reason for those dubious of the merits of marriage not to wed.

Regardless of our personal preferences, we have to accept that for some people, marriage is going out of fashion and reasons of fortune – whether luck or their own finances – make it even less attractive.

 

Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with a family law adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.

 

Click here to return to the main divorce and family law area.

 

19 July 2016

Sadly, it’s very much a fact of modern life that many relationships experience difficulties and a substantial number fail.

 

According to the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics more than 40 per cent of marriages end in divorce, with half of these divorces occurring during the first decade of marriage.

 

Against that backdrop, it’s not surprising that there are many couples whose partnerships might have been filled with romance at the start but have left only regret, reflection and even recrimination.

 

Proof of this pattern has recently been affirmed by an article in the Daily Telegraph, written by a woman who was able to reflect on a first, unsuccessful marriage (something which she summarised as a "starter" marriage) after finding happiness at the second time of asking.

 

It seems to me that what she describes is something of a clash between the more traditional or, dare I say it, the more romantic view of marriage and modern life.

 

Those in the first camp consider marriage in more idealistic terms and wed, when still relatively young. For them, marriage is - or certainly should be - for keeps and, quite often, their first serious relationship appears to be with “The One”.

 

The second group, though, regard marriage in more practical terms. Just like many other form of partnership or deal, they understand that the contract needs some kind of insurance. They know that relationships can fail either before or after exchanging vows and so are more willing to put a prenuptial agreement in place, just in case.

 

Increasingly, that kind of real world view is adopted by those who might have initially entered into marriage with optimistic eyes. If such relationships collapse, the complications caused by eschewing a pre-nup can have a lasting effect which, whilst not completely dulling their quest for lasting happiness, makes them unwilling to go through such an ordeal again. That is especially true if they have had the opportunity to progress in their careers and have more assets to protect as they grow older.

 

Of course, as recent figures illustrate, it's not only young divorcees who have that moment of clarity. The so-called “silver splitters”, who might have been in quite long marriages, appreciate the value of marital contracts in preventing the loss of assets earmarked for their retirement - and, possibly, their families' futures - in another divorce.

 

For them, another marriage becomes a triumph of practical hope over potentially painful experience, whereas their younger counterparts frequently see wisdom overcome youthful innocence.

 

To update the lyrics of an old song, love might be lovelier “the second time around” but it is far more sensible these days with a pre-nuptial agreement.

 

Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with a family law adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.

 

Click here to return to the main divorce and family law area.

19 July 2016

It is sometimes said that divorces take too long to conclude. That opinion has been fuelled by a succession of high-profile splits involving many court hearings across a number of years before settlement is achieved.

 

Of course, there are occasions when it is impractical for couples whose marriages are effectively at an end to bring them legally to a close. For example, the last recession meant that a considerable number of spouses remained in the marital home, living more or less separate lives under the same roof.

 

At that time, job insecurity, depressed house values and a shortage of cash meant that they felt unable to go their own way. There are, though, circumstances when formally dissolving a relationship over a relatively long period of time can actually be a good thing. Take the actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin as an example.

 

A year ago, they famously announced that they were “consciously uncoupling” because their 11-year marriage had run out of steam. In the months since, they have regularly seen each other, spent time with their two children together and are reported to have been dating other people too. This week, it was revealed that they have now divorced.

 

I don’t think that I’m alone in thinking that although the amicable process might have prompted a lot of questions amongst entertainment media, it probably answered quite a few questions of the couple’s own about the nature of their relationship and their prospects.

 

Many husbands and wives find the realisation – whether sudden or gradual - that their marriage is failing to be difficult to take, generating very real and very raw emotions. Occasionally, those feelings lead to combustible situations which can be extremely hurtful for the adults involved and their families too.

 

Removing oneself from the potential for conflict provides the time to think more calmly about the future – something which is especially important if the marriage has been a long one – rather than the stressful ‘here and now’.

 

It might seem like a mere platitude but time can really be a healer in such a scenario. While distance and reflection might not reverse the decline of a partnership, it makes it possible to handle the necessary administration without anywhere near as much rancour. For those living with the fall-out of divorce, reasoned discussion is always better than dispute.

 

Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with a family law adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.

 

Click here to return to the main divorce and family law area.

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