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19 July 2016

There are many reasons why marriages which begin with tenderness and high hopes dissolve into acrimony and divorce.

In my experience, and that of my colleagues in JMW’s Family department, most relationships are eroded by what to outsiders might seem relatively trivial matters.

There might not be any infidelity or domestic abuse but, over time, a multitude of tiny fractures undermine confidence and a couple’s long-term prospects.

Occasionally, though, there is behaviour which has a more corrosive impact on the fabric and finances binding spouses together. It can, in fact, be so extreme that it generates antipathy which lasts long after they have parted.

Such is the case with Amit Goyal and his former wife, Ankita.

The Court of Appeal has heared how a luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by the couple during their eight-year marriage, and funded by his six-figure salary as a banker, disappeared as he lost enormous sums on spread betting.

Mr Goyal argued that that is was “peer pressure” from colleagues which led to him frittering his and his wife’s assets away, leaving him living on benefits and with debts of more than £650,000.

He has now been ordered to give her his only remaining asset - £19,000 worth of shares in the Swiss bank UBS.

It is an example of what is known as “wanton spending”, the kind of reckless expenditure which diminishes the amount to which an individual’s partner might reasonably be entitled to if they separated.

Whilst there might be those who consider the judgement to be unfair, I would disagree. In determining suitable divorce settlements, courts start from a position of trying to be as fair to both sides as possible.

Spouses who run up large bills, thus depriving a husband or wife of assets to which they might be awarded on divorce, are said to have engaged in “intentional deprivation”, something which undermines the very concept of fairness itself.

There is one element in the Goyal case, however, which I don’t believe can pass without comment.

Regardless of the details of their five-year divorce, it should not have been so long drawn-out, particularly given its additionally ruinous effect on their finances.

Mr Goyal alone owes £130,000 to his lawyers, a situation which should simply not have arisen.

When divorce solicitors like myself are asked for advice by someone wanting to divorce, it is of critical importance to enquire as to their assets.

It is in neither the interests of a couple nor their lawyers to pursue a dispute between ex-husbands and wives in the full knowledge that there are limited means.

Legal procedures have to be paid for – and that causes resources which are far better spent providing for the future of spouses and any children being depleted still further.

Divorce is undoubtedly an emotional process but, when confronted with facts, even combative partners will see the sense of opting for a route which leads them away from the duration, costs and gamble represented by the courtroom and towards a more constructive solution, such as mediation.

 

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

Things are seldom easy and often not very straightforward when relationships end. Where children are involved, the potential for distress is magnified. Sons and daughters, whether grown-up or not, sometimes experience trauma of their own trying to come to terms with the fact that one of the two most familiar figures in their lives suddenly won’t be living under the same roof.

Whilst such upset is a sad but natural part of marriages or cohabitations breaking down, there should always be an emphasis on the part of the parents to set aside any friction between themselves in order to ensure that the impact of separation or divorce on their children is minimised.

It’s a principle by which the Family courts strongly abide. Sensitive matters are dealt with calmly and – usually – in private to avoid highlighting domestic difficulties.

That is why the decision of Bristol Crown Court to identify a mother who has gone into hiding with her young son is so striking.

Rebecca Minnock left her home in Somerset with three-year-old Ethan after a court order that the child should live with his father. That was the latest stage of a dispute between the couple about Ethan’s living arrangements and reversed an earlier move allowing the boy to live with Miss Minnock.

In my experience, such a change of heart is rarely exercised by courts and certainly doesn’t happen without what it believes is sufficient reason to do so. They do not take such proceedings lightly.

Furthermore, issuing names and photographs of the missing mother and child runs counter to the practice of preventing those involved in Family court cases from being identified. The idea is that anonymity means problems can be addressed without everyone else knowing about them.

However, in this case, it would be troublesome making an order as to where Ethan is to live if it then can’t be enforced because neither he nor his mother can be found 

Three of Miss Minnock’s relatives were also arrested at the weekend and threatened with criminal charges if they failed to reveal her whereabouts.

Other courts have warned of the consequences of separating parents using their children as “pawns” to score points against each other.

No matter how much relations have deteriorated between partners, there can surely be no excuse for behaving in such a manner.

Regardless of the risk for such conduct to make things more fraught in the short-term, the children concerned are quite likely not to thank those responsible well into the future.

To discuss any of the issues raised in this article please do not hesitate to get in contact with Oratto today. 

 

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

Anyone glancing across the pages of certain tabloid newspapers and celebrity or lifestyle magazines would be forgiven for thinking that divorce is constantly sees conflict trump consensus and that all marriages end in fireworks and spite.

 

Whilst it would be entirely untrue to say that all spouses part in good humour, I believe it's closer to reality than the image created by a few high-profile cases. Looking over the cases handled by myself and my fellow Oratto members specialising in family law, the vast majority are completed without the kind of rancour which occur only occasionally yet account for a large amount of column inches in the national press. 

 

It could be said that more than 40 years since the last big legislative change in divorce, there have been some pronounced developments in how - and why - husbands and wives go their separate ways.

 

For instance, adultery - for so long an incendiary allegation in many marriages - has seen a steady decline since the year 2000 and is no longer the stated reason for divorce in most divorces in England and Wales. The catch-all claim of “unreasonable behaviour” is now the most common of all grounds for divorce. What might surprise some people is that adultery doesn't even come second.

 

More than twice as many divorces are granted to husbands who have been apart from their partners for more than two years as those who claim their wives have been unfaithful. The proportion of wives filing on the same basis is not quite as high but still greater than that for women who believe their husbands have strayed.

 

Just as with “behaviour”, it's a shift which only happened at the turn of the century, although there's no clear reason as to why there should be a “Millennial Marriage Mindset”.

 

The idea of couples who want to divorce relatively amicably rather than aggressively has been brought to mind by the actress Gemma Arterton, who has just ended her marriage because of separation. She married in 2010 and separated in November two years later.

 

Ms Arterton, one of a cast of so-called “Bond Girls” - having appeared alongside Daniel Craig's 007 in Quantum of Solace - can perhaps take some solace of her own from the knowledge that she is part of a growing movement of formerly married individuals. Many of the people who end up pursuing just such an approach seem to start off in the belief that England and Wales have the same kind of “no-fault” divorce which other countries have adopted.

 

However, when they receive their legal advice and learn that there is no such thing yet (even though the Supreme Court judge, Baroness Hale of Richmond, has called for it as recently as April this year), they are forced to make a choice. They can either make a claim of “unreasonable behaviour” or opt for the kind of two-year wait that Gemma Arterton found preferable. There may well appear to be agreement over the practicality of “behaviour” but as the divorce moves towards its conclusion, some find the idea of having a stain on their character to be unpalatable.

 

A period of waiting before they can legally move on with their lives might be frustrating but if they can agree on the financial aspects of a split - and, particularly, if they want to minimise the impact which ending a marriage might have on their children - they will accept it as the lesser of two evils.

 

In finalising her own divorce, Gemma Arterton has proved to be realistic. She has been quoted as telling one interviewer: "No-one gets married to get divorced. That’s just life. It’s the way it is".

I think that she and the many non-celebrities who also choose to wait two years before bringing the curtain down on their own marriages favour grace over grimace and, in doing so, give themselves the chance of a pain-free second act.

 

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

The last few decades have been tremendously disruptive to the long-established notions of British family life.

Technology has proven to be something of mixed blessing, allowing more and more flexible communication yet being mined for the sort of evidence which can bring marriages to the point of collapse.

Our understanding of the concept of “family” has also undergone a great shift. Whereas, not so long ago, marriage between men and women was the norm and anything else taboo, an increasing proportion of couples live together and raise children together without ever exchanging vows.

One recent change continues to generate significant impact.

A rise in middle-aged divorcees - the now-fabled “silver splitters” - has resulted from a rush of spouses keen to break from the restrictive social norms of their antecedents by exiting unhappy marriages once have children grown up and left the family nest.

More than a surge in foreign travel and remarriage, there has been another consequence: pension aged Baby Boomers having babies of their own.

One notable case is that of the Rolling Stones' guitarist Ronnie Wood who recently announced that he was to become the father of twins with his 37-year-old wife, Sally (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-3348420/Ronnie-Wood-dad-68-Rocker-s-wife-Sally-pregnant.html).

Wood, who is 68, has found himself something of a celebrity standard bearer for a group of older men becoming fathers.

While the news is undoubtedly wonderful proof that Wood can live up to the title of one of his band's most famous tracks and 'Not Fade Away', there are implications - both positive and negative.

They include both the practicalities, such as the strain which raising children places on an individual and a relationship. Although I wish the couple well, the many divorces handled my colleagues and I handle llustrates the toll exacted by becoming a parent on partnerships of people who are much younger, let alone those in their sixties.

The older someone is, the more difficult comparatively routine tasks, such as those involved in raising a child, may become. For those who are entitled to claim a pension before their sons or daughters are even born, the challenge is all the greater.

If relationships do not last, can a pensioner be asked to meet all of the financial commitments of divorce, including spousal and child maintenance, which someone younger might expect to make?

Of course, the flip side of that is the experience which age provides. Working life, whether as a touring rock idol or in a rather more mundane profession, can take fathers and mothers away from their homes and their growing children.

Having fewer commitments and a slightly slower pace of life can allow someone to be a more hands-on parent to children born later, something which is to the benefit of all.

 

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

Having a child is, for many husbands and wives, the very peak of their marriages. The joint responsibility of looking after someone else can bring couples even closer together. Sadly, however, the experience is not without stress, given that it can totally change the dynamic of a relationship.

Such tensions have been reported by the Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington, who has just announced that she has separated from her husband of only 18 months.

One reason could be having “plenty of arguments”, which she had previously remarked were caused by the strain of parenthood following the birth of her daughter, Summer, last June.

We shouldn’t forget that Adlington and her husband (the swimmer Harry Needs) are – at 27 and 24 respectively - a relatively young married couple in England and Wales in current terms. Since the early 1970s, the average age at which men and women marry has crept upwards from the mid-twenties to the mid-thirties.

Raising a child can often exacerbate the kind of issues which partners might already face in their twenties. That is one reason why, according to the most recent statistics, women in their late twenties have the highest divorce rate of any female age group.

I have been involved in cases in which fathers of a not dissimilar age resent children replacing them as the central focus of their wife’s affections. It is also perhaps important to bear in mind the fact that both Adlington and her husband have competed for some years in elite level sport.

After retirement and years of self-sacrifice, many athletes experience turmoil when their lives no longer revolve around training or competing.

Despite the absence of much academic research on the topic, there is sufficient anecdotal evidence in the UK and abroad to suggest that significant numbers of athletes in a range of different sports experience domestic difficulties after they stop competing. The continued status of being a household’s main earner can add no little pressure of its own too.

Similar issues account for the rise in so-called ‘silver splits’, divorces among the over-50s, who find life after what might have been an entire adulthood of paid employment to be less than the restful idyll that they might have imagined.

With all that to contend with, it’s unfortunate but perhaps not surprising that even two individuals at home in water as Rebecca Adlington and her husband find themselves sinking instead of swimming.

 

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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