This blog was prompted by a telephone call I received late one Friday from someone extremely anxious about the way his separation was going. He had hoped to keep things fairly low key and amicable between himself and his wife. A family friend was acting as a go between in helping them to sort out the practicalities of separating. Suddenly communication broke down, the wife decided she was not going to trust the family friend anymore and she announced that she was going to get “the best Lawyer in Oxford” and take him for “everything he’s got” or words to that effect.0
He rang me on the basis that he thought he also needed a lawyer to fight for him.
Is this the best way to fight? Is the best lawyer the one that is going to fight for you which will increase tension and animosity? I don’t think so. I feel very passionately that this is definitely NOT what the parties or the lawyers should be doing.
Most lawyers are members of Resolution, a nationwide organisation of family lawyers that very much emphasises the need to calm things down, use non inflammatory or provocative language and basically avoid the concept of “fight” altogether. There are no winners when people split up, it is more of a damage limitation exercise rather than a fight ending with a winner. The very notion of winner suggests a loser, someone who does not get a fair share of either the assets or the children. This is obviously not right for anyone in the family, as whatever the cause of the separation if there are children the parents are going to have to maintain some sort of relationship and contact going forward in theirs and the children’s lives. Better not to damage future relationships any more than necessary.
If parties end up going to Court the costs will be huge. If you have a lot of money to argue about then perhaps it may be worth spending several thousand pounds as Heather Mills did (probably several hundred thousand pounds) to try and get a larger share of Paul McCartney’s millions. Most of us are not in that bracket. We are part of families where there are only just enough assets to go round and if you are separating, those assets have to work doubly hard to provide a home for two people.
So the best lawyer is not one who rubs his or her hands with glee at the concept of a fight. The best lawyer is one who calms things down and says let’s talk about this rationally and find a way through all of this that suits the two parties and the children as much as possible. It is in the end all about compromise – ironically even if you go to Court the Judge is looking at finding a middle way.
Obviously compromise does not mean one person is “walked all over”, compromise is about fairness, about dignity, about a rational solution – not a fight, with a winner and a loser.
So falling in and out of love is what we do – we just need to be mindful of the children in the middle.