Should Gary Lineker stick to promoting crisps?

Resolution, Colloborative Law and Mediation are all ways of helping a legal dispute such as a Divorce be handled in the best way for both parties

And leave the law to the professionals?

Resolution, Colloborative Law and Mediation are all ways of helping a legal dispute such as a Divorce be handled in the best way for both parties

In answer to the above question, I would say, very simply, yes. The 55 year old retired footballer took to voicing his opinion on our countries divorce system stating to The Radio Times:

Just generally speaking, it’s very easy to get married and very difficult to get divorced. And we know that lawyers try to manipulate it to make you spend more money and basically end up hating each other.”

Although it is reported that his second divorce was dealt with amicably, Mr Lineker has called for a “mathematical equation” when dealing with financial settlements and it was reported in the Daily Mail that he used an online divorce costing around £400.00. As Mr Lineker says, he was speaking in general terms but is there any truth in what he said?

Firstly, let’s deal with the issue of a Divorce. Although Divorce and the issue of matrimonial finances are intrinsically linked they are in fact separate applications with differing rules and regulations. As a Solicitor it often irritates me how medical programmes have consultant doctors involved to ensure the information they are using is factually correct but the same is not applied to programmes or the media when discussing legal issues. The tabloids will often report on celebrities getting a “quickie divorce” in a few seconds before the Courts.

Is this true? No! What this refers to is the legal process of the parties Decree Nisi being pronounced in Court and in fact they are not divorced until their Decree Absolute has been pronounced, which takes at least 6 weeks and one day later. Mr Lineker is referring to the process of “Divorce” as a whole but there are two elements, the Divorce itself and the finances.

Divorce is, if it proceeds on an undefended basis, a paperwork procedure where in most cases attendance at Court is not necessary. Sadly, despite years of political debate there is still not a “no fault” divorce in this Country, but does that mean that Mr Lineker is right to say that divorce lawyers manipulate clients to end up hating each other?” I would hope not.

There is an option to wait two years after separation and then Divorce by consent to avoid using one of the blame routes but even then a good Divorce solicitor will advise on how to draft a Petition without unnecessarily inflaming the situation between you. The Divorce itself, if undefended, is a relatively straightforward procedure and costs can be kept to a minimum. What cannot be easily avoided is the now £550.00 Court fee. This was recently increased by the MOJ from £410 with very little warning to professionals and the general public, and the higher fee proves that it is not possible to divorce for around £400 online as the tabloids report. Although the Decree Absolute is not always obtained until the finances are resolved, the majority of the Divorce can be completed in 3-4 months. Mr Lineker seems to forget when stating that lawyers manipulate parties and cause more hate than necessary, however, many divorcing parties already “hate” each other and solicitors are faced with this high emotion and can only go so far in trying to deflate a heated situation. 

Secondly, there is the issue of finances. Those who are not legally trained like to portray that the resolution of divorce (and the issue of finance which is often joined into the same term) would be easy but for solicitors. However they forget one thing: the law!

The law relating to the resolution of matrimonial finances is centered around financial disclosure - how can one advise about how assets should be divided if we do not know what those assets are? This can be a long and complicated procedure but that is only if parties have significant assets. The power to make financial orders rests with the Court even if agreed and therefore the Court has to know what assets and circumstances it is dealing with. Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act includes a list of factors that the Court has to take into account when resolving finances and this again leads to a need to obtain full information from both parties to ensure that a decision can be made in line with the law. Mr Lineker’s suggestion of a mathematical equation, again forgets the law. The Court has to balance the assets against the needs of the parties and more importantly the interests of any children involved and a mathematical equation would not allow for this.

Mr Lineker is voicing the opinion that lawyer’s charge too much but this seems to come from a general devaluation of the skills required to be a divorce lawyer. Divorce lawyer’s like all lawyers require years of training to qualify and also have to continue to train each year to maintain their professional status. Although it is correct that the Divorce element may well be able to be completed online or in person, it does not mean that the person doing it can ignore the law and procedure involved. If they do their Petition will be rejected leading to added costs to resolve the errors. Also, if parties decide to agree the finances themselves they are doing so without the benefit of legal advice and could find that some years down the line their ex-spouse is seeking an additional sum because their agreement has not been put into proper legally binding documents or that they do not have adequate assets to look after themselves and their children.

If parties are concerned that their solicitor may incite hate to inflate costs then there is an answer to that: ensuring that your solicitor is a member of Resolution will help to avoid any added animosity. Resolution members are professionals who are committed to resolving family matters in a constructive way and sign up to a code of conduct to assist this. The use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is increasingly promoted in family law be it through Mediation, Arbitration or Collaborative Law. There is a requirement in English Law to, unless in exceptional cases, to attend Mediation before issuing a Court application. So the judicial system is also set up to try and help parties resolve matters amicably.

At the end of the day Mr Lineker is entitled to his own opinion but the general public should take it as that, his opinion, which is in my view is not a fully informed one.

To find out more about Alternative Dispute Resolution please contact Farhana Butt, Denis White or Edward Owen who are all members of Resolution and also members of The Best Divorce Options Group who seek to promote ADR in Family matters.

Louise Ballantyne, Family Solicitor can be contacted at: louise.ballantyne@hcsolicitors.co.uk or call 01733 822800 if you wish to discuss or require legal advice on any family related matter.

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This article has been prepared for general interest and information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. While all possible care has been taken in the preparation of this article, no responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by the firm or the authors.