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This case is a horrible reminder of the wasteful and destructive costs of adversarial litigation. After two years of proceedings, spending almost £600,000 in legal fees, this couple were left with just £5,000 each. Unsurprisingly this has been picked up by the national press.
Please know that such high levels of fees are NOT necessary. Couples can resolve their divorce with joint advice for a fixed fee if they focus their minds on reaching a solution which is fair to both of them rather than a battle which is just emotionally and financially ruinous.
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Some extracts from the judgment of Robert Peel QC speak for themselves:
‘1. After nearly 22 years of marriage, which must have contained happy times together and during which 3 children were born to whom the Husband (“H”) and Wife (“W”) are devoted, this couple embarked on ruinous and recriminatory financial remedy proceedings. … The combined legal costs are £594,000. The litigation, and attendant bitterness, has led to fractured relations between H and the children.
2. One might be forgiven for assuming that all this energy has been expended over great wealth. This is not so. The only liquid asset of any substance is the proceeds of sale of the FMH, some £630,000 currently held on solicitors’ account. That sum is now all but offset by the parties’ debts, not least the legal fees. Thus, the true net liquid wealth is virtually nil. I am left with the task of endeavouring to find a way in which each party can somehow be re-housed. That, in my judgment, is and always has been the real issue in this case.
3. An equal division of £630,000 would be £315,000 per party from which each would have to meet their indebtedness. The difference between the parties’ offers is £191,000. The legal costs are 3 times that figure. It is hard to express what a calamitous waste of resources this has been.
98. This self-defeating litigation is now over. It is scarcely credible that at the end of it all, they emerge with about £5,000 each of liquid assets, having incurred nearly £600,000 of costs, but such is the reality. There may be worse examples of disproportionate and ill-judged litigation, but none spring readily to mind.‘