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20 September 2016

There have arguably been many consequences of the evolution of divorce case law since the turn of the century.

Since a notable ruling in favour of Somerset farmer’s wife Pamela White in 2000, the details of collapsed marriages involving individuals who aren’t celebrities seem more interesting to media.

In addition, the way in which couples structure – or separate – their relationships has been informed by the practices in other, more notable cases.

For instance, prenuptial agreements have acquired more weight and proven considerably more popular following the 2010 Supreme Court decision to honour the document signed by German heiress Katrin Radmacher and her ex-husband.

An eye-catching but no less important development has been the way in which the concepts of ‘fairness’ and ‘need’ have been reinforced as critical in courts’ thinking about how assets are divided when husbands and wives part.

Headlines were generated by one case last week, in which a former model, Christina Estrada, was awarded a £75 million settlement from her billionaire former spouse. It has been described as the largest “needs award” ever made by an English divorce court. (

A second, anonymised decision, coincidentally handed down by the same judge, Mrs Justice Roberts, in the High Court’s Family Division only 48 hours before Ms Estrada’s, also underlined the importance of need (

Perhaps more importantly, it touched on how assets built up before a couple marry might be used to arrive at a settlement which is felt to be in the best interests of both.

The matter involved a businessman who married his wife in 2000 when he was in his late sixties and she was 51. She was divorced while he was a widower, having lost his first wife after 28 years of marriage.

Over the years, he had run nursing homes and bought a string of properties in central London. By the time that the couple decided to divorce, the couple were together worth just over £10 million.

She argued that she was entitled to a half-share of the overall joint pot, whereas he rejected that assertion, further claiming that she had “duped” him into marrying her, so that she might have a measure of “personal and financial security”.

As it turned out, the judge reckoned that it was fair that he kept 75 per cent of the overall assets with the remainder being, in part, recognition of the contribution which she had made to their marriage and his business.

In trying to effect a fair solution, the court decided to rely on some of the assets which the husband had amassed before their marriage.

Some people entertain an assumption that such possessions are beyond the scope of a divorce settlement – that anything owned before a couple ties the knot is not up for discussion.

That is, of course, not totally the case. As the judge made clear, the issue at the heart of the matter was that of the wife’s needs and not using pre-marital assets to generate a sum required to meet those needs would be unfair.

The husband’s argument is, in my experience, not unusual. However, the outcome in this case bears out what divorce courts generally regard as something of a fundamental rule: the needs of a less wealthy divorcing spouse trump all.

In the decade and a half since this couple married, prenuptial agreements have grown in frequency. They help establish who brings what to the marriage and provide a simple structure for asset division and one which, I believe, helps reduce the potential for debate or disagreement when bringing a marriage to a close.

As the couple in this case have discovered, arguing that someone is a dupe is both an emotional and factual exercise. Divorce – and the meeting of needs within it – comes down to rather more objective administration.


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.


15 September 2016

Divorce is an emotionally turbulent time for everyone involved. If the separating couple have children, then, naturally, they will remain the main priority when making arrangements, but there are so many other issues to be sorted out. And one of the main questions will be what will happen to the family home.

Deciding what will happen to a couple's property can be a major stumbling block in a separation because as well as almost certainly being the major financial asset in the relationship, it may also hold many emotional connotations – much more than mere bricks and mortar. Depending on what the catalyst for the relationship breakdown is, it may be a decision that has been thrust very suddenly upon the parties, and, for this reason alone, it's potentially unfair to just expect one partner to up sticks and move out.

15 September 2016

Marriage is a big part of life. Unfortunately, so is divorce.

With many UK couples separating (an estimated 42 per cent, in fact), prenuptial agreements – where a couple agrees prior to the wedding how their assets will be divided in the event of a divorce – seem like the smart choice, if not a little bit of an awkward subject to bring up with a prospective spouse.

05 September 2016

Reports say that the rock star started dating his third wife, Orianne Cevey, again after moving to America to look after their children whilst she recovered from surgery on a slipped disc. 

Complications in Ms Cevey’s surgery left her partially paralysed, so looking after their children – Matthew, 14, and Nicholas, 11 – would have been a struggle without help from their father. 

Both the Daily Mail and the Express reported that the couple now hope to get married again.

Contrary to what many people may think, it is by no means unheard of for separated couples going through a divorce to reconcile either during the process or even once the divorce is complete. Some people worry that there is no going back after making the decision to initiate divorce, but it’s still possible for couples to rebuild their marriage even long after a divorce if they want to.

Phil Collins and Orianne Cevey did, in fact, complete the divorce process, which according to reports involved a £25 million financial settlement. 

It is also possible to rescind or ‘cancel’ divorce proceedings at any time before the decree absolute – the final decree of divorce - is pronounced. The exact process for cancelling a divorce depends upon which stage in the divorce process the proceedings have reached. It is only once the final decree is pronounced that the proceedings cannot be cancelled if there is a change of heart. 

If you want to rescind your divorce, I would advise you have the proceedings formally withdrawn or dismissed, rather than letting them lay dormant on the court file. This can usually be achieved with a straightforward ‘application by consent’.

Some people say they feel embarrassed about backtracking or changing their mind, or as though they have wasted the solicitor’s or court’s time, but this should never be a concern – for all the scary reputations about divorce lawyers, we actually love nothing better than a happy ending!


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.

03 August 2016

A Supreme Court ruling allowed a former wife to make a claim for a share of the fortune amassed by her husband 30 years after they parted, as no binding consent order was made when they divorced.

Kathleen Wyatt was granted permission to lodge a belated claim against multi-millionaire Dale Vince, who made his fortune through a green energy company founded in the 1990s, which is said to be worth £57 million.

The couple met and married in 1981 and had a child in 1983, separating just one year later. The wife became a full time single parent with little income and had little contact with her ex-husband.

There is no time limit in the UK within which a spouse must seek an order for financial provision following a divorce, and in 2011 the wife put forward an application. This was dismissed by the Court of Appeal, and the application was taken to the Supreme Court to decide whether due consideration had been given to section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

Ms Wyatt was granted permission by the Supreme Court to make a claim, and in June 2016, Dale Vince was ordered to pay his ex-wife a lump sum of £300,000. In response to the verdict, Vince stated that he felt there should be a time limit on when claims can be made.

It was certainly unusual to hear of a claim being made after all this time, but without a consent order in place, the opportunity remains open.

More people are thinking about pre or post nuptial agreements following media coverage of high profile cases where these have been involved, such as German heiress Katrin Radmacher. They are certainly a sensible option for anyone getting married, but they are for use at the start of the relationship to set out what you wish to have happen if things go wrong. They are not legally binding in the UK but will be a persuasive factor if both parties received independent legal advice at the time.

What's involved here is the way in which a divorce is finalised. Once you've reached agreement, you can get the court to make it legally binding by applying for what is known as a consent order, and that's what was missing in Wyatt and Vince's case. 

A consent order confirms what has been agreed and can include details on how assets will be divided, including cash, property, pension funds and other investments, and can also include arrangements for maintenance payments, including child maintenance. Both parties have to agree and sign the draft consent order and a judge will consider the terms to see if they appear fair and reasonable, and if so will approve the agreement to make it legally binding.

Going through the process of obtaining a consent order should mean that both parties come out with a fair settlement and there will be no surprises some years down the line.


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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