So now we know the decision in Young v Young. Mrs Young has been awarded £20 million, but she is not at all happy. She believes she should have got a lot more, and she has suggested that she may appeal.
Now, I don’t know whether Mr Justice Moor’s estimate of Mr Young’s worth was correct, but let us just assume for a moment that he got it wrong, and that Mr Young is worth every penny that Mrs Young claims. What, as a lawyer, would I be thinking now?
Well, it’s difficult to put myself in the position of Mrs Young’s lawyer as, like most family lawyers, I have, thankfully, never experienced a case quite like this. Mind you, nor had Mr Justice Moor, who described it as “about as bad an example of how not to litigate as any I have ever encountered”.
However, all family lawyers have dealt with cases where one party claims that the other is worth much more than they admit, and I recall dealing with one case in particular.
Thinking of that case would put me in two minds when it came to advising Mrs Young. Part of me would of course be concerned that she is getting much less than she is entitled to. On the other hand, knowing what a further ‘fight’ would involve, particularly in terms of damage to the family, part of me would be content if she decided that enough was enough, and decided to stick with an award that she knew was much less than she should have got.
Why do I think like this? The case I recall went like this.
I was instructed by the wife and the husband was the owner of a fairly large and (apparently) successful local business. However, (surprise, surprise) the business appeared to get into difficulties at about the time the marriage broke down, and the husband had decided to sell his interest in it.
Obviously, we needed to obtain details of the value of the business and how much the husband was going to receive. However, he was less than forthcoming, which meant that further enquiries had to be made, delaying matters and adding to the costs and the stress involved for my client. Matters were exacerbated by the fact that the exact amount that the husband would receive for his interest in the business would not be finalised for some time.
And so the case dragged on, for many months.
Eventually, however, I received instructions from my client that she had had enough of the continued dispute, and that so long as she had end to suitably (and modestly) re-house herself and her children, she would ‘call it a day’. She just wanted the family to get on with their lives.
Obviously, I had to advise her that she might be foregoing a considerable amount of money, but she was adamant. So we settled.
It was one of the most dignified decisions I ever encountered whilst practising. Sometimes it is about more than just the money.
Compare the Young case. Mr and Mrs Young are not the only people involved. As Mr Justice Moor said in the final paragraph of his judgment:
“I feel nothing but sympathy for the two children of these parties. Through no fault of their own, their parents’ marriage broke down. A marital breakdown is distressing enough for any child but, for the divorce to then be played out in the full glare of the media in the way that has occurred in this case, must have been absolutely appalling for them. What has occurred has not been child focussed. I truly hope that the parents will reflect on this. I also hope that it does not happen to any other children.”
Let us hope that Mrs Young bears these words in mind when considering her next move.
Photo by Nancy L. Stockdale via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence
John Bolch is a family law commentator