Collaboration is a route to resolution which, in the right circumstances, can help couples find an amicable solution when a relationship breaks down.
Sue and James had been married for 23 years and have a 22 year old daughter and a 20 year old son.
For several years prior to instructing solicitors they had not been getting along and been living more and more separate lives under the same roof. They decided to separate and sell their jointly owned house which was too large for either of them with a view to going their separate ways.
The overall assets, including pensions and James’ company interests totalled approximately £2 million. Sue had worked part-time during the marriage in an administrative position but had no recent skills.
Sue also went to see a collaborative lawyer and both were assessed as being suitable to be accepted as collaborative clients. They held a good deal of mutual respect for one another despite no longer wishing to remain together. Neither had an ‘axe to grind’ but they needed clarity and legal guidance and advice due to the complexity of the situation.
Over a series of 6 meetings (4-way meetings), we assisted Sue and James identify their assets and financial circumstances and needs. This included:
- An independent company valuation was obtained early on through agreement and an expert jointly appointed
- A full report as to pension sharing and how equality of income might be achieved
- Looking at monthly budgets and needs
- Looking at James’ and Sue’s housing requirements
To conclude, a mutually agreed settlement was arrived at which took into account James’ wish to maintain autonomy over the significant company assets without claim from Sue. Sue took a higher amount from the non-company assets (house and savings) to provide her with enough to buy a new home with a fund sufficient to enable the clean-break on income which both wanted.
Sue and James agreed a ‘pension sharing order’ which was based on both having broadly similar income at retirement.
During the process, the ‘reason’ for the divorce was also agreed within the face to face sessions and papers drafted in between sessions. The two collaborative lawyers were also mindful throughout as to the potential need for counselling and this was discussed with Sue and James, who separately agreed this may assist them. By adopting this approach, it assisted them to stay focussed on the issues and facts, rather than the meetings becoming emotionally too charged.
Chat to the Author, Helen Midgley
Senior Associate, Families and Divorce, Bishop's Stortford officeMeet Helen
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