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Room for manoeuvre

“In a year or two when their emotions have cleared, they may bitterly regret settling too fast and too expensively.”

Sometimes I read in the press that family lawyers can inflame and prolong the divorce process. Perhaps some do. My own clients know from the outset what will happen in their own cases, because my years of experience mean that I can advise my clients fearlessly and predict the likely outcomes with confidence.

Along the way, I have encountered a number of clients who have wished to negotiate directly with their spouses. I don’t have a problem with this – provided that negotiations are not rushed, take place on an equal footing and both parties are fully informed about assets.

Sadly, it is a fact of life that some people will try to take advantage of vulnerable partners.

One of my clients, who was seriously ill at the time, was prevailed upon by her unscrupulous husband to put her signature to a grossly unfair “agreement”.  He then fought to uphold this “agreement” through the courts. He was unsuccessful, and his efforts cost him an additional £500,000 plus both parties’ costs. Since then, that man has referred quite a few clients to me!

An early settlement can often seem like a simple, easy way out – but it isn’t always the right answer. I recall one lady who came to discuss a four-page draft agreement from her husband’s solicitors. She was calm and confident when she arrived, but when I went through the agreement with her, clause-by-clause, she became angry and upset as the awful truth dawned. In simple terms, she was being conned. Several months later the settlement had been properly concluded, and our client’s interests had been fully protected.

Cases such as these demonstrate the value of legal representation. Divorce is emotionally turbulent, and the support provided by an effective legal team should not be under-estimated. That is what family lawyers are paid for.

There are some husbands and wives who will still settle, even when their lawyers advise them not to do so. Such clients often discover that a year or two later, when their emotions have cleared and they see their former spouses with new partners, they bitterly regret settling too fast and too expensively. It is true that the price of a settlement can be peace of mind, but not always. Let your solicitor advise you.

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known family law solicitors and divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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