Cat litter trays and Neil Diamond CDs, dog-eared paperbacks and screwdrivers. So often these are what a marriage can come down to – or a divorce, to be more accurate. Haggling over who gets final custody of items with little intrinsic value when a couple decide to go their separate ways is often what drags out a divorce. I wouldn’t want to put a figure on how much extra each year this costs UK couples in fees, but it’s A LOT.
A survey out this week revealed, none too surprisingly sadly, that a fifth of divorces are delayed because of rows over these inexpensive possessions. The analysis showed that ex-husbands and wives were prepared to run up costly legal bills in order to win custody of possessions as small as picture frames, tools and hairdryers. Even those in the higher earning bracket with seven figure fortunes to divide can get hung up on a favourite butter knife or flea market picture.
The findings were based on examination or more than 1,000 divorces from the last year.
So here’s a thought. If a couple really are in search of the mythical quickie divorce we read about constantly in the tabloids when celebs go their separate ways, the best thing they can do is be sensible about dividing up possessions and coming to a financial settlement. That will ensure things move through the legal process as quickly as possible, with no holds ups, so the ex-spouses will be free and single again in the fastest possible time (which will still be around six months so don’t get over-excited).
Division of assets can be long and complicated at the best of times, just looking at the finances. Haggling over little things is pointless and will gain nothing but bigger bills. Couples must be prepared to compromise if they want to move on with their life and start afresh. There is not point trying to prove a point by arguing over Auntie Mable’s broken old St Bernard ornament.
Of course, I guess the reason some people may dig their heels in is to deliberately delay things because they have not let go and do not want to finally say goodbye to their partner. However, surely not all of the 20% identified in this report are deliberately delaying things and adding to the cost for all?
It is essential that all these details are sorted out and that a clean break order is then agreed to prevent any future claims and draw a line under the division of the assets. And without that, any chance of a swift divorce remains remote.
Woolley & Co, divorce solicitors
Comments and response - What to do if you want a quick divorce
Possessions 9/10 of the law!!! Possession (law) - And to think I gave it all up!!. A high price for peace ....but oh, so worth it to have peace and find my heart to Smile again. A great wisdom blog Andrew.
By Carolyn Williams on Wednesday November 10, 2010
I’m constantly amazed at how pettiness costs people so much time and money. As most of us know, the fighting over small, inanimate objects is usually about control or another issue the couples had during the marriage. Another great and interesting article Andrew! ...
By Hillary Johns on Wednesday November 10, 2010
Excellent advice from Andrew here. The divorce courts are not a place for pettiness or sillyness. Although as lawyers we stand to benefit financiall from our clients disputes, we do have a professional obligation to keep costs as low as possible and a good divorce lawyer will always advise clients to keep disputes to the bare minimum and do whatever possible to negotiate an amicable settlement. ...
By Cyrus Mansouri on Thursday November 11, 2010
Interesting—and heartening—to see so many people sharing the viewpoint of common sense on divorce. Of course in fairness to our clients, it isn’t necessarily them. Seriously! It only takes one person to create a major problem but both tend to get blamed….
By Andrew Woolley on Monday November 15, 2010
I agree with everything that has been posted. I have had several divorce hearings where custody has been agreed upon, but they wanted to argue over the last few items of property. I have tried other methods: putting all items on a list, one below the other, and then having the party flip a coin as to who goes first, then each getting to alternate “turns” in choosing items; or just deciding to sell all of the items and share the profits. Along with the little bits of property, these days I am finding people constantly fighting over debt like they would the picture frames (let’s have a hearing to go through the cell phone bill to argue about who pays for what charge)....
By Melissa Mesa on Monday November 22, 2010
Many times, thousands in fees (paid and/or unpaid) are wasted over petty nuances, etc. It comes with the territory - where (to misquote from The Godfather) it’s nothing business, just personal. Also, I personally believe, especially where there are minor children, that there is no clean break - the divorce continues - and post judgment proceedings are on the rise….
By Jon Probstein on Monday November 22, 2010
The most intelligent thing I have learned from a wise old mentor, from pre-collaborative days, and something I express to all new family law clients: THERE IS NO WIN IN FAMILY LAW LITIGATION. Any and all family court proceedings have loses for all parties. Period. Sometimes the pain of the action is what drives litigation. Sometimes a continuation of control by one spouse over the other drives the post-decree proceedings. As we all know well, there is an endless list of why a family law client wants to dispute something (custody, property or other). Though one thing is for sure-as long as there are marriages there will never be simple divorces, as reason and intellect are not what cause the unions to begin with. Passion. And where passion is present, family lawyers will always have clients. Of that we can all be assured, even with collaborative efforts and all with best intentions….
By James Carson on Monday November 22, 2010
That’s very, very true. When people are getting a divorce, no one wins. Although in some cases, it can be a healthy move for both parties. Of course, since family law issues have been around since the beginning of time, often for similar reasons, it actually makes sense….
By Hillary Johns on Monday November 22, 2010
Whilst I don’t agree with every word of the comments above, I do agree with the sentiments expressed. It is good to see how many people agree with our campaign at Woolley & Co to make divorce better. We are working hard on just that now and we will continue….
By Andrew Woolley on Monday November 22, 2010