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Separation without heartache – it is really possible?

The emotional, practical, and financial implications of any divorce can be overwhelming no matter who you are.  As recently shown by Bill and Melinda Gates, irrespective of their stellar wealth and prominence on the global stage, their concerns remain the same as the vast majority of separating couples: the need for privacy, and the desire to avoid unnecessary conflict.

Television dramas and Hollywood films would have us believe that every divorce should come with melodrama and bitterness, with each side entrenched in their views and the overriding drive to “win at all costs”.  In practice, this is (thankfully) far from reality in the large majority of cases.  As demonstrated by the Gates, with the sage advice and guidance of experienced lawyers there is no need for court room battles.

Long gone are the days where wealthy couples need to conduct their separation under the glare of the media and in the court of public opinion.  The court system is a blunt instrument for resolving such disputes, especially where a more delicate approach would serve best in unpicking the intricacies of complex tax arrangements, off shore assets, company structures and inherited wealth.

Since the case of Radmacher v Granatino hit the headlines in 2010, increasingly couples have looked to anticipate the potential breakdown of the relationship and manage that possible event through pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.  While still not legally binding on the courts of England and Wales, these agreements offer an opportunity for couples to identify what assets should be shared between them. Judges have steadily recognised that such agreements, if careful considered and drafted, can be extremely persuasive in informing a judge how to settle any sharing of a couple’s wealth on divorce (alongside other relevant issues such as the importance of retaining inherited wealth, or address unmatched financial contributions to the marriage).  With many people entering into second marriages, pre-nuptial agreements and post-nuptial agreements provide the opportunity, for example, to preserve assets meant to benefit children from previous relationships.  As such, these agreements bring much-valued confidence and the potential to avoid acrimony on separation.

Understandably, not everyone will feel comfortable discussing the minutiae of a divorce and financial settlement with their partner at the same time as discussing their wedding plans. Even where a ‘pre-nup’ doesn’t exist, there are still plenty of options which avoid the need for court involvement.

Alternative dispute resolution has seen a massive rise in popularity over recent years, accelerated by the global pandemic and its impact on an already overloaded court system.  While the ultimate outcome of ‘ADR’ is still the dissolution of the marriage, there are many avenues available to divorcing couples to resolve any disputes including private arbitration. This works particularly well, as it utilised a system that offers couples privacy and a timetable for resolving matters that they control, as opposed to one imposed upon them by the court.  The judiciary has actively encouraged couples to explore arbitration in an effort to remove pressure from the overburdened family court system and give them access to a swifter resolution.

With a level head and good advisers, even the ADR process can be avoided if a separating couple are able to achieve an outcome based on agreement and conciliation. At Cripps Life, we are committed to remain at the forefront of this approach, providing joined up advice aimed at finding the best solution for you, in the highly charged personal and emotional atmosphere of a relationship breakdown.

If you would like more information on Family law, please contact Simon Donald on +44 (0)20 7591 3320.