Gary Lineker has promised to present Match of the Day in his underpants following the unexpected achievement of Leicester City winning the premiership football league. The Match of the Day presenter has also had quite a bit to say recently about divorce and the way it is handled by lawyers in this country. Gary has recently achieved an amicable divorce from his wife Danielle and has stated that he has achieved this without the use of lawyers who he has indicated manipulate and worsen an already difficult situation.
We as lawyers know that when a marriage falls apart it is a very difficult process to make the separation work for both parties. What happens on a divorce, particularly when resources are limited, can have an immense impact on the future lives of the couple and we have to work hard to get it right. There are occasions when lawyers can interfere and cause problems between amicable couples when none previously existed. Although it is important for lawyers to properly protect their clients and give sound legal advice it is not their role to upset fair and reasonable agreements which are workable for the divorcing couple. We would always encourage separating couples to engage in productive and meaningful discussions and mediation can provide a good route to enable a separated couple to take control of their own destinies.
Unfortunately the divorce system in England does not allow a divorce simply on “irreconcilable differences”. If a separating couple wish to issue divorce proceedings without waiting for a period of two years they are forced to make allegations either of adultery or unreasonable behaviour. This supports the profoundly wrong notion that one of them has to be at fault for their parting. Unless the couple are very well balanced and understanding it can cause difficulties between separating couples which sometimes spill over into their discussions relating to what to do with finances and the children.
Often, no one is at fault. Despite love, patience and months and years of effort their relationship will sometimes cease to work.
In this environment sorting out the money can be very messy and difficult. Our law is very unpredictable and frankly unclear. It is hard for couples to negotiate an appropriate out of Court settlement because sometimes they do not really know what they are entitled to. Society is changing, expectations of gender roles are also changing. Gary has suggested that we need a clear set of rules to work out who gets what and how to work it out. At the moment the whole matter is left at the Judge’s discretion if the couple cannot sort out a settlement between them.
So it is important to have someone helping you work out what is a viable solution to a breakup and how the reasonable needs of everyone and particularly the children are going to be met from the available resources. There is talk of making the divorce laws quick and less based on blame. If a political party wants to be the party of the family, they will not want to be known as the party of the “quickie divorce”.
There are ways in order to provide solutions for potential problems later on - couples can frontload the planning of their arrangements by working a Pre Nuptial Agreement before their marriage. This means that arrangements as to how they will deal with money, property and their relations with each other can be recorded and agreed before the marriage. Such document expressing a desire to part amicably and friendly can form a blue print for a successful exit solution. It can make sense to plan for the unexpected – after all, who would have thought Leicester City would have won the premiership?