High Court Judge recommends “serious settlement discussions”

September 21, 2016 by Sue McArthur

One of the most senior family judges in the High Court once described divorce litigation as a “boxing match”. This was at the beginning of a 10 day trial set to decide a multi million pound dispute.

Former beauty queen, Ekaterina Fields and her estranged lawyer husband, Richard, married in 2002. They had two children together and were divorced in March 2013. Their battle was over assets thought to be worth around £6 million, with legal bills for the case in the region of £1 million. After hearing initial submissions from their respective legal teams, Mr Justice Holman urged the parties to have a “serious discussion” about settling the case. After asking Mrs Fields if she had previously experienced litigation and to her reply that she had not, Holman J said “Its awful. Don’t you think its awful? Its like a boxing match”.

The remarks of the Judge were supported by the Chief Executive Officer of National Family Mediation, Jane Robey, who commented that “divorce litigation is like a big fight but the greatest worry is that the children are caught in the middle of the battle. The children stagger helpless and bewildered around the ring, emerging with life long bruises, while the couple search fruitlessly for a knock out blow. The Judge in this case is right to urge settlement and it is time for the judiciary to become more vocal in its efforts to avoid court battles, whether they involve multi million pound assets or, like most divorce cases, much much smaller sums in property, debts and pensions”.

The majority of those involved with the family justice system recognise that divorce litigation can and should be avoided. The collaborative law process is one of the ways in which such costly and acrimonious litigation can be avoided and is proof that a friendly divorce is both possible and more beneficial for all concerned.

 

By Lucinda Connell, Major Family Law