Gary Lineker and the cost of divorce

Divorce|April 26th 2016

Cheeky Chappy, Jack the Lad, potato crisp promoter and everybody’s best friend, BBC Sports presenter Gary Lineker has been making headlines recently and not just for his pledge to present Match of the Day in his underpants if Leicester City win the Premier League this season.

No, the Lineker-related news item that grabbed my attention was his comments about the cost of divorce. Earlier this year he and his wife divorced and it was, by all accounts, a rather straightforward, amicable process which did not cost the couple too much money. Nothing too remarkable there. It actually happens far more often than is generally appreciated.

But then, for no obvious reason, in a Radio Times interview, Mr Lineker claimed things may not have been so simple if lawyers had become involved. After all, “it’s very easy to get married and very difficult to get divorced”, he said, adding that “we know that lawyers try to manipulate it to make you spend more money and basically end up hating each other”.

We know that, do we?

Footballers aren’t generally famous for their brains and slagging off the entire family law profession seems to me just a little excessive, to put it mildly. A few years ago I headed up the Law Society’s Family Law Panel and came across about 5000 or so family lawyers, most of them legal aid practitioners. They had all met the rigorous standards required, but most of them I assume will have been decimated by the subsequent abolition of legal aid. Most people nowadays will never in fact have met an actual divorce lawyer. And they will be all the worse off for it. As Judges tell us in the strongest of terms, the courts are now clogged with people desperate for the services of a lawyer, queuing to get into court.

But the wealthier people can still afford divorce lawyers and take it from me, not every client is charitably disposed to their former spouse. There maybe many reasons why a wife is embittered but a husband playing away will usually be at the top of the list. As for a husband used to controlling the finances, suddenly in this situation he may find himself out of control. He can’t dictate the pace of the game any more now divorce proceedings have begun and worse, might find that his wife is now in charge of the negotiations. As divorce lawyers our job is to level the playing field, keep our clients in check and do our best – all while caught up in what might be a fire storm, especially if a lot of money is involved. I know nothing of Gary Lineker’s divorce and clearly won’t speculate about him or his motives for this astonishing attack, but I do know a lot about divorce, having been a lawyer for 36 years and …doesn’t time fly?

In the same interview, Mr Lineker also suggested that “there should be a mathematical equation that goes straight to the courts” to sort out. However, he did not elaborate. His comments were picked up across the media and when I read them, I wondered what formula could be universally applied to all divorces to make them fair? With thoughts of the Child Support Agency formulaic fiasco in mind and the billions it has cost the taxpayer so far, I was fascinated to know. Given the state of the courts right now I’d love to know which Judge would be happy to spend time applying a formula to each couple’s case. No names spring immediately  to mind.

Furthermore I was a member of the Legal Advisory Group to the Law Commisssion which reported on potential changes to the law and considered the possibility of a formula. It has been met with considerable hostility, not least by Mr Justice Mostyn who said in one recent case of the Law Commission report:

“I agree with para 3.154 which states that “it would take a great deal of work to develop a formula generating a range of outcomes in each case.” I would go further and suggest that it may prove to be an impossible task, given the scale and scope of the individual variables…. The dismal story of the Child Support Act 1991 is all too telling, and that was only dealing with something as straightforward as child maintenance”

I tweeted Mr Lineker:

However, I did not receive a reply.

What he did tweet was this:

So as long as Gary’s okay, then it’s all right for him. Except it isn’t. There are hundreds of thousands of unrepresented people out there denied a lawyer, access to the law and knowledge of it. His comments were offensive and crass.

He owes us an apology.

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  1. Vincent McGovern says:

    No, he most definitely does not owe Lawyers an apology, stating the well known truth is not a matter of apology. I have McK in around 400 hearings in CA 1989 proceedings and in my experience 90% of lawyers use the Welfare Principle as a phrase of convenience for income generation. I also have 5 Ombudsman Investigations incl against the SRA to my credit so I know what i’m talking about. And as Chair of two London branches of a well known Shared Parenting Charity I know only too well that once Lawyers are involved the case will be hijacked, lengthened, embittered far too often.

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Dear Vincent
      Is this an interview you gave?
      Two firms singled out for praise. My point is that he dissed the entire profession and he owes us an apology.

      • spinner says:

        I’m really surprised by your seemingly genuine anger at this and also confused that you would not realise that this is the general view people have of lawyers, especially matrimonial, either from first or third hand experience. My guess is that the people you mix with are either lawyers themselves or are people who are too polite to ever mention something like this in your presence but a large majority will likely be thinking this.

        • Marilyn Stowe says:

          Dear Spinner
          I have published all the comments I have had to the blog which I suspected would be adverse. I have regular commenters and guessed in advance what the reaction would be. So be it, I believe in freedom of speech.
          However I am annoyed for three reasons. First because of all the lawyers I know who do a good job, second because lawyers can only advise but are bound by their client’s instructions, and third because so many people are desperate for legal advise and can’t afford it.
          So a big Celeb like Gary Lineker saying what he did about all family lawyers is untrue and offensive.
          Furthermore his support for a magic formula is quite simply unworkable which I know from my own knowledge of the report that went to Government about how the law can change.
          Overall, lawyers run the legal system, they are the oil that permits it to run smoothly. Take them away as has largely happened in family law, and it descends into chaos and miscarriages of justice.
          Lawyers perform a decent job for which they’re well trained. I agree there are spectacular cases where lawyers hit hard, but I’m afraid that is what they are instructed and paid to do. Be under no illusions about that. An unhappy client moves on.
          Lawyers don’t make judgements, that is the function of the Judge. Equally they are not the whipping boy of the public but Government has played it that way to cover over the decimation of legal aid and ultimately I think to devise a two tier legal system, one for the people who can afford to go to court and one online for those who can’t – and heaven help them.
          Law is tricky, it requires skill and knowledge and Gary Lineker overlooked legal technical and professional know how in his comments. But he was speaking to the Radio Times! I imagine he never thought for a moment throw away comments would be taken so seriously, but that’s the price of fame and an online divorce. It’s clearly left the media curious.

          • spinner says:

            I think you are maybe giving too much credit to Garry Lineker and his ability to make a nuanced argument over twitter on various aspects of the legal profession that you obviously deal with day in and day out and it’s seemingly hit a nerve.

            Your prediction that the governments real aim is to create a two tier legal system I agree with and the lower or free tier will be online and run largely on formula’s as per most other countries in the world and I fully understand why this would be of a concern to you but to me as a consumer of legal services this is literally music to my ears. If very wealthy people want to hire lawyers to slug it out for years over how many millions each of them get then good luck to them, for average joes like myself the current system is a nightmare and it removes assets from the family to pay for lawyers that would be much better spent on the children over whom their welfare it largely seeks to justify it’s existence.

            I’m not being critical of you personally and as you say I’m sure a lot of lawyers are hard working intelligent people who deserve to be enumerating but the system is not fit for purpose and I think if it wasn’t for the fact that a lot of MP’s are lawyers themselves this system would have been reformed years ago.

            I work as a software developer and have a certain amount of experience of implementation of AI in simulations so I keep an eye on what’s going on with AI and to be honest it’s going to be difficult to justify the expense of having humans involved in the legal process in future, I realise that may sound fantastical but it’s going to happen sooner than you think and really an online system where people interact with that is an ideal first step in that direction.

          • Marilyn Stowe says:

            Dear Spinner
            We will disagree about lawyers. However the online direction of the family law is worrying, did you read the report of the inspectors carried last week in The Times about the criminal online system? It can’t work without humans.
            The issue here is deep and constitutionally very important, it goes to the heart of the rule of law and a right of all of us to turn to the court. Removing access to law is happening across the board and it’s shocking to see it. The CSA legislation which took away the right to go to court for most people needing child support has caused chaos and £billion losses but is only the start as far as I can see. Say what you like about lawyers but in fact they are vital to a democracy.

          • spinner says:

            I’m really talking about my own experience and a very specific part of civil law and I have no experience of the criminal court and so I wouldn’t talk about that part. The civil process of divorce could be handled exclusively by rule based AI. At universities around the world in computer science departments everyone wants to be working in AI and the legal system itself lends itself very well to it. Online dispute resolution within the legal system followed by gradual introduction of AI is going to happen it’s really just a question of how quickly.

            You keep raising the CSA as if human’s are not able to learn from experience, clearly the CSA was very badly implemented but I’m confused as to why you keep referencing it as you seem to be joining two things together possibly on purpose. The first is the use of a formula to calculate the length and amount of spousal maintenance as happens in Canada and arguably with the three year rule in Scotland, the second being the lack of the ability to go to court. As I understand it people still go to court in Scotland and Canada and these many places where they use a formula it’s just the judges are told to use that as a guidline as to what society expects them to do, as per sentencing guidlines or any other aspect of law.

            I lifted this from another post “The Law Commission said it would require empirical evidence collected by outside agencies over a long period to even begin.” This is looking at it from the wrong direction, in my view the accurate way to look at this is, what does society as expressed through our democratically elected representatives feel is the appropriate level of support an ex husband / wife should expect to receive. Why has this got anything to do with empirical evidence collected under a previous law, the evidence itself would be irrelevant. To me is sounds like another excuse to remain with the status quo.

          • spinner says:

            I wanted to add something that is initially counter intuitive but I actually think removing large scale involvement of lawyers from the legal system will actually improve the legal system as a whole for society.

            The reason being that when costs are reduced and accessibility is increased it will result in an increased usage of the legal system by people who either for financial or just lack of knowledge about availability of help that the legal system could provide would not have previously used it. To get a hearing today you need to spend around say £200 and the wait is say a couple of months, what if that was reduced to say £20 and the wait was two days, how many more people would access the service and you would see the benefits that I think we probably both believe the legal system provides to society magnified.

            I don’t think anyone is arguing that the legal system is bad it’s just these hangers on who abuse it.

          • Marilyn Stowe says:

            Dear Spinner
            Respectfully;- thats absolutely to misunderstand the fundamental and real role and function of lawyers. Do read this.

          • spinner says:

            “In my own particular field, finances in divorce, I have been amazed at how the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 can still govern finances, and still work, in such changed circumstances, for all couples, no matter their circumstances – but it does.” –

            It doesn’t.

            “They know how to negotiate and know how to settle.” –

            They don’t.

            Interesting read but however much you don’t like the new situation legal aid for all is not coming back and if your talking about the need for a cohabitation law that only increases the need for low cost easy access to the legal system, which is what I think respectfully you need to move onto how to achieve as you are flogging a dead horse currently.

          • Marilyn Stowe says:

            Dear Spinner
            There is none so blind as he that will not see.

          • spinner says:

            There is none so blind as she that will not see.

          • Luke says:

            “I have published all the comments I have had to the blog which I suspected would be adverse. I have regular commenters and guessed in advance what the reaction would be. So be it, I believe in freedom of speech.”
            Marilyn, I suspect (probably too weak a word !) that I am one of the ‘commenters’ you are referring to 🙂
            You have clearly shown over the years that you really do believe in freedom of speech, I am thankful that you have allowed me to post for a considerable period of time on your blog. I say thankful because quite clearly we fundamentally disagree on a large number of issues relating to Family Law.
            It has occurred to me that despite your natural tolerance you might be getting really quite fed up of me continually posting my dissenting views on YOUR blog, and I do think that would be quite understandable – especially as I know you are not keen on the tone of my posts (which I definitely would not change 😀 ), so if that is the case please drop me an email or post here asking me to stop posting and I will most certainly do so with nothing but appreciation for our previous exchange of views.

          • JamesB says:

            Same with me as what Luke just said.

          • Marilyn Stowe says:

            Dear Luke
            I like reading people’s posts. I’m grateful the blog has so many readers, in this country and worldwide and I’m appreciative that people take the time and trouble to comment.
            Of course by now I’ve got to know the regulars and the tone and nature of their comments, particularly what posts are likely to attract the classic comments and I knew this one would!
            So be my guest, enjoy.

          • Luke says:

            OK, thanks.

      • S R Crawford says:

        Oh he absolutely owes an apology, but get ready for the uninformed commentators – or those who think only their instructions to lawyers matters, and also the losers.

  2. russell armstrong says:

    I totally agree with Vincent here Marylin. I too have experienced first and second hand how solicitors argue with the other side just seemingly to rack up the billable hours.
    I have seen how they can eek out simple negotiations with stupid and inane arguments like “our client cannot agree to extend your sonsholiday time with you as she feels that your allocated time (one night a fortnight) is plenty enough to holiday in
    I could write a book full of this kind of stuff, lawyers are inly interested in thier client in as far as they can bill them
    Most of them are taught about billable hours and keepimg strict timeseets than actually doing what is quick and effective
    Marylin you may pride yourself in holding to a higher standard but I probably couldnt afford your hourly rate anyway
    Lawyers = £££

  3. Elena says:

    Why does Mr Lineker can take so much money for what he does and other professions (which needed hours of studying and research) can’t?

  4. spinner says:

    Family lawyers owe “us” an apology, that is the truth however hard it or actually impossible it is for you to see that. I realise that you must think that you are doing some massive public service by running your family law firm, in some case’s maybe you are and maybe you are the exception to the rule but my experience was that most lawyers are out to make whatever they can for themselves from a situation.

  5. Vincent McGovern says:

    Hi Marilyn

    Yes the above is an interview I gave. And if I may correct you one firm Anthony Gold singled out for praise and one Solicitor who was then a trustee. That small issue aside, i’m afraid the profession as a whole has a heavy responsibility for children post divorce or separation having the worst outcomes in Europe. Or to quote an Austrian female MEP whom I met in Brussels “In the UK you appear to have a system where the welfare of the child is a phrase of convenience for the welfare of lawyers.” And a legal system which gives such funding to legal aid for lawyers (now virtually female recipient only) but not one penny towards the therapy necessary for the treatment of children is owed no apology from anyone incl Gary Lineker. That said I do thank you for allowing me to post on your blog.

  6. Tony Grubb says:

    This is seemingly a very real concern to everybody except matrimonial lawyers. Thank you for your plainspeaking contribution Vincent, which completely reflects my own far less extensive experiences. I would like to speak with you about a friend’s predicament, Vincent. And thanks to Gary L for raising the topic. More of a post to come when I have a gap in which to set it down.

  7. Luke says:

    Well, maybe you are not aware of this Marilyn but the following:
    “we know that lawyers try to manipulate it to make you spend more money and basically end up hating each other”
    … is a very widely held opinion in the UK of the way the legal system works when it comes to divorce – it certainly matches my vicarious experience of the process.
    There is a reason that jokes like this are so common :
    (Note: this IS only a joke 🙂 )
    ‘There is a trucker who hates lawyers so much he always runs them over with his truck whenever he sees one. One day he sees a priest hitchhiking and decides to give a ride to the holy man. As they go along the road, the trucker spots a lawyer by the side of the road and steers to run him over. At the last minute he remembers the priest in the truck and swerves away hoping to avoid judgment of his sins.
    He says “I’m sorry father, I don’t know what came over me!”
    The priest replies, “Don’t worry, I got him with the door!” ‘

  8. JamesB says:

    There are a lot of equations.

    I too agree with the point that he made. I did not agree with him not discussing with his soon to be ex about whether he wanted another child before they got married. I think that would have been sensible. I discussed it with my wife and said ok to one more, he should have done the same or had the decent thing and left, it is not nice to string people along.

    The point is that lawyers do use divorces for income generation. With mine, my solicitor said that a lot of the cost and emotional and litigation expansion was caused by the other side (my wife’s) not having much work on at that time and debt to sort out. They were not driven to settle but to inflame things.

    To be fair to lawyers, its like Boris said about big companies not paying taxes, its in their nature. I suggest the ability of parents to storm into court on day 1 needs to be stopped like it is with the Scottish system where you have to wait and things cool down and I expect average Scottish divorce legal fees are a lot less than the rip off fees which Mr Lineker rightly points out and I thank him for that, and his good performances for England on the pitch.

    • JamesB says:

      I had 2 lawyers in my divorce. Both were bad. They listened to the other side (who were stringing the thing along) rather than me who said just do in court. Thinking about it, them blaming the other side was wrong as they were guilty also.

      With re to lawyers , I think the lawyers for the Hillsborough families did a good job recently.

      I also think good divorce lawyers exist, in the way in which I have heard amicable divorces exist – have heard they exist but not witnessed personally, apart from Marilyn talking a good game on giving her clients value for money which seems to me a good thing if she does.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The mathematical equation only works if you have full and frank disclosure

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Dear Anonymous
      I doubt a mathematical equation can be achieved, ever. The Law Commisssion said it would require empirical evidence collected by outside agencies over a long period to even begin. The Judiciary are set against it.
      And your point is well made. Without access to lawyers, it would be very difficult to challenge the evidence presented and turn the process into a farce. This is happening at the moment because of the removal of legal aid for those most in need, usually the woman. When you read the numbers of comments coming into this blog you get a realisation of just how bad things must be: which is why I wrote my book. But frankly it’s scratching the surface.
      It was wrong to remove access to justice for so many people, and it could be reinstated and made to work profitably.
      Finally may I add my position on this is not out of self interest. We are a private client firm. But I have come across too many high street legal aid lawyers and their clients to be anything other than deeply sympathetic to them.

  10. Andy says:

    So far in reading the prior comments it is agreed Solicitors and legal advisors do and be ill make the most of people’s misfortune in any shape and from.

    You believe in the legal system that will support you but only to find it will crush you and above all you have paid for this so called robbery of legal support.

    All to often I have read that my solicitor is carp..I do believe a blog not so long ago by Mrs Stow stated that if you were not happy with your legal advisor you should find another one…yea simple…one would think but when you sack your current one and authorise a new one what comes to light in advice from your new one is all to shocking in what your prior one has wasted your money and pointless letters and of course they cover themselves with the statement of…As per your instructions!!!!.what that means is a gravely train of more cash per letter,phone call and e mail correspondence..
    Solicitors are there to give legal advice not to rack up costs and you actually lose the sight of what you went there for anyway…

    When I was entering my divorce, still on going,now 2 years down the line. I remember my solicitor saying to me, How do much do you think this is going to cost reply was, 5 to 6 thousand….what I should of said was..If your any good you won’t cost me a lot,If your not,you will cost me alot…
    10 thousand later and sackingthe advisor because he was shit also a senior partner.
    So in essence to it all they are award of time and a cost that is far beyond the reality of it wonder most people want to represent them self..
    Then solicitors will have to find other ways to remove monies from hard working people for poor return…still they just have a chat at the jolly boys club over a round of filthy you have billed for…

  11. Andy says:

    Should of been..Round of Golf…in the last sentence.

  12. Andy says:

    Having ‘re -read Mrs Stow blog it is clear that justifying her comments,also justifying her legal team and her business in that it stands…
    Just one question,I ask, how much an hour do you charge!!!!…
    As per usual a not so straight answer you would receive..still,solicitors have to pay there secretarial team and in cases actually act as solicitors themselves…but charged out top rate…how many solicitor firms have you created Mrs Stow..on the back of people’s misfortune….As a non judge..I rest my case….

  13. William says:

    While I agree that footballers aren’t particularly known for their brains, and that Gary Lineker is making a sweeping statement, because HIS (fortunate) experience cannot necessarily be generalised as being true about ALL divorce/lawyer experiences — it is equally true that, with all due respect, Ms Stowe’s opinion as a lawyer cannot necessarily be generalised as a realistic and true statement about ALL lawyers.

    Both, it seems to me, are making the same mistake — assuming the general from the particular. In Lineker’s case, it can easily be attributable as “sampling error” — he only had ONE divorce, and that went swimmingly for him, ergo, all divorces can be just as easy. The argument is fallacious just on the face of it.

    I am sure Ms Stowe’s experience of other lawyers is pretty extensive — but she doesn’t know the whole population, and I imagine her law firm would probably tend to steer clear of less-than-adequate lawyers, if they have a choice.

    The fact is that there are some very good, wise, and decent lawyers. There are also some who are decidedly lacking, and from whom you might do better to fight your case without their “help”. There are even, unfortunately, those for whom receiving a fee will set them on a course to skirt the law with the narrowest of margins — for whom the term “criminal lawyers” is as much likely to refer to them, as their clients. I’ve seen them all in action, and sometimes been appalled and disgusted that we “mere mortals” have to be left in their care — to sink or swim.

    From admittedly one particular experience (I’ve only been divorced once, thank god), and from what I have heard, I would say that some lawyers do try to manipulate the situation to make you spend more money, by enabling them to get more “billable hours”. After all, what’s to stop them? Not MUCH, really.

    But I can also say I have seen some excellent and thoroughly respectABLE lawyers who inspire confidence in their ability, perspicacity and fair-mindedness.

    So Lineker was right, Ms Stowe is right — and er, some lawyers in my opinion are not worth their fee. Those, unfortunately, you may have to sue. Even more unfortunately, you are probably on your own. Because, understandably, lawyers don’t like fighting other lawyers.

    • JamesB says:

      Lawyers sue lawyers everyday.

      I sued mine and won. I was quoted £3000 and a letter if exceeded that and a letter every six month with costs review including prediction of total costs in their t’s and c’s. They were in breach of their ts and cs so I negotiated a reduction of over half of the total bill which was over ten thousand. I did self represent and have another solicitor but all in all a simple case cost me and ex about £50k which is a complete rip off. If I had have not stopped and went LIP would probably have got to £100k which is not far off the value of that being argued about absolutely disgraceful of which I got little and about enough to pay my legal fees.

      Financially I would have been better not instructing and losing as would have lost less than I spent on lawyers. Emotionally and on mental health as Marilyn points out though that would be very hard and breaks many. That said the law as Lineker says should not be so expensive to do things in a civilised way, i.e. more like Scotland.

      • JamesB says:

        To be specific, without naming names, they sued me for about ten k and we settled on about 4 out of court for the reasons given and because they didn’t want their piers and Judges to see what they had been up to, ripping their clients off.

        Their letter to the Judge went as follows ‘case xyz between JamesB and ripoffmerchants ltd has been settled with JamesB agreeing with ripoffmerchants ltd to pay the amount outstanding. Or something very similar. Which is what lawyers do, bend the facts.

        So, you pay lawyers in divorce to be insulted. I like a poster above (and most) was new to lawyers before my divorce. I have since been through civil and criminal (ex fil was senior policeman stitching me up on dodgy criminal case) and I must admit I no longer have a view that what is done by them is for the best. Limiting myself to the subject of the post, divorce and matrimonial lawyers for most people in E and W aren’t value for money.

  14. JamesB says:

    Yes, my mental and financial health has suffered more than it should have and that is not right and the system needs to be improved to stop that sort of thing happening.

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