Family Matters

Your monthly family law digest from Woolley & Co, Solicitors


March 2017

Titanic divorce battle might have been prevented by a prenup

There does appear to have been a spate of high profile divorce battles in the news recently. The one that has really caught my eye this week is that involving Margie Hanley and estranged husband Michael, and their “titanic” struggle over a holiday home in rural Ireland.

In Brief

News from Alaska highlights treatment of pets in divorce

Some years ago, I was told about a case another family solicitor had been involved with. After lengthy court proceedings regarding a divorcing couple’s financial matters the parties had finally been able to resolve their differences and a...
... more

Should anyone get a meal ticket for life when they divorce?

“The inequality in divorce law laid bare”. The recent case of Graham and Maria Mills, decided by the Court of Appeal, has sparked widespread outrage, as Mrs Mills’ maintenance, first set when the couple divorced 15 years ago,...
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Unreasonable behaviour in divorce brought into question by recent case

With a flurry of divorce and family law cases recently leaving social media agog, none seems to have caught the attention of lawyers and the general public like the appeal made by a 66-year-old woman against the decision to refuse...
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How can we make divorce less confrontational?

Baroness Deech has never been one to mince her words. Recently, she spoke of the urgent need to “clean-up” the divorce process, making it less inflammatory and antagonistic than it currently is.She is proposing a Divorce (Financial...
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Should there be more, or less secrecy around divorce?

A recent Court of Appeal case set me thinking about privacy issues in divorce. In the case in question a divorcee embroiled in a legal fight over money with her ex-husband failed to persuade senior judges to bar journalists from...
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The Irish couple, married for 33 years, built the luxury isolated pad in the village of Cornamona, County Galway – Mrs Hanley’s “ancestral home” – 16 years ago. But since divorce proceedings started following her alleged affair, Mr Hanley has set up home there and they have been fighting tooth and nail in the courts over it.

Then there was a breakthrough after two days in court when it was announced the couple were finally negotiating – then a deal was struck. Finally sense prevailed. Mrs Hanley will get the disputed property – but at what cost? Certainly significantly more than its 600,000 Euro value when you add in all court and legal fees.

The case has been an interesting one, as much for the pure bloody-mindedness of it as for the riches involved (they have somewhere between 10 million and 14 million Euros in assets to split). Mrs Hanley, 56, alleges her 60-year-old husband was simply staying in the home and fighting for it to “punish” her. If that is the case, it is a very costly way to do so.

The reality also though is that the law isn’t interested in “punishing”. It is not set up that way – nor should it be in family law – but is merely a tool to help couples through the legal ending of their union. If individuals decide to dig their heels in during that process, all it does is add time and zeros to the end of the bill, cutting into the assets which ultimately need to be divided.

The case beautifully highlights why it is so important that a couple does everything possible to reach a settlement without involving the courts. Digging your heels in is counter-productive and is often simply down to point scoring or old-fashioned stubbornness. It has little relation to what the individuals actually want. Having respect for each and reaching an amicable resolution can save time, money and heartache – particularly if children are involved.

It also, again, highlights what an important role pre-nups and post-nuptial agreements can play in helping smooth the waters if a couple splits up. Pre-nups can set out before a couple gets married what they walk away with in the event of a breakdown. Maybe that could well have helped the Hanleys in this situation. It certainly serves as a cautionary tale to urge people to do what they can to reach an agreement before getting to court.

In the end, the couple should be applauded for finally negotiating but it went so far before they did that there is really no winner.

Davina Warrington
Divorce & family solicitor, Burton upon Trent


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