Some years ago I appeared in a local county court for a mother in a Children Act application brought by the father. The solicitor on the other side was a local practitioner of many years experience and asked me if we could go in to see the judge without clients first of all. I agreed and we went in before the judge, an equally experienced family law judge. My opponent introduced the case by saying, "This is one of those cases, ma'am, where we should all devoutly hope that the parents grow up before their child does." Instantly, the judge knew exactly what to expect!
I had my attention drawn to this report from the Telegraph recently and it triggered my memory of that afternoon.
My instinctive response was, oh yes, we've all been there. Thorpe LJ was just voicing what we have all thought so many times in the past. Why on earth do intelligent people expose themselves as acting in what can only be considered an immature way in front of a number of independent professional people? The whole atmosphere is so often one of tit for tat. Isn't it too undignified for words?
“It seems to me almost puerile; these very rich people
distrusting and disliking each other intensely, so somebody has to come into
the nursery to make some rules to dissipate all this nonsense.
“I simply cannot understand how the parties can litigate with such profligate
We aren't told what this pair have spent in legal fees so far. I know I harp on about this, but it is quite important really. I tell all my clients - I will advise you, as best I can, how much you could realistically hope to benefit by if you take your case to the next stage. I will also tell you how much it will cost to get there. If the first number isn't considerably larger than the latter, then there's no point in carrying on any further. Unless, that is, you would rather I had the money than either you or your ex.
In this case there seems to be another factor to take into account. The wife is saying that the original order, which gave her £26m, just isn't enough. She seems to have managed to get that order overturned and is now waiting to go back to argue for more. For whatever reason, she won't settle for more money than the vast majority of us could spend in several lifetimes. Having lived with countless clients through the whole trauma of contested financial proceedings, I find it very hard to understand why someone who is to benefit from that sort of wealth wants to go through the whole thing all over again. Why? To be awarded still more money which you are unlikely to have time to spend before you die?
In 1985, we are told, the couple were penniless. Now they can each leave their marriage with at least £26m. Surely that's enough? The saddest element, as always, is when you see that they have two teenage daughters. What is the effect on these two of seeing their parents squabbling like this and being derided by a senior judge in such demeaning terms?
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