Managing Partner Julian Hawkhead was interviewed on BBC Tees this morning by presenter Mike Parr. He was brought on to talk about whether or not staying in contact with an ex-partner following a breakup is a good idea.
Julian explained that for parents, they do not really have a choice. They will be forever linked through their children. The parental relationship is still important to young children even after a split so how they interact after they separate could have lasting effects. Separated parents will often need to stay in touch so they can arrange hand-overs (when young children are involved) and decide what is the best way to approach events such as birthdays and Christmas.
The financial side of a breakup can be equally complicated if the couple in question were married. Although money and can lead to lengthy disputes, Julian said it was not always necessary to drag each other through a court battle. In fact, he said the courtroom should be a couple’s last option. He noted that there are ways to resolve such disagreements amicably using mediation, arbitration or collaborative law. An amicable split will more often than not be quicker and cheaper than a contentious one, he explained.
Transcript for Julian’s BBC interview
JH: Julian Hawkhead
MP: Mike Parr
MP: Let’s talk to Julian Hawkhead from Stowe Family Law. Morning to you, Julian.
JH: Good morning, Mike.
MP: You’ll be dealing with this all the time then, what would your advice be? Should you have a clean break if you split up or should you keep in touch?
JH: Are we talking financial clean break or emotional clean break?
MP: For the moment in time we’re talking emotional.
JH: Well, the problem you’ve got is, people who are separated who have children together will always have that tie, will always have that need to relate to each other, to relate to their children. Obviously in the children’s eyes, that relationship between their parents, even though they are separated, is still very important to them.
MP: So it is inevitable that you’re going to have to come together?
JH: Well, it is inevitable at things like birthdays, weddings and so on but if the children are young there will be handovers; the children will observe how their parents interact with each other, parents’ evenings, there’s Christmas. All these things need to be worked out and children of separated parents are much stronger and much more confident if their parents are seen to get on with each other.
MP: Let’s talk about the financial side then, which is just as tricky isn’t it?
JH: It can be yes. Particularly with divorce. When you’ve got two spouses who are separated, it is inevitably the desire of the financially stronger person to try and achieve what is called a ‘clean break’. This is severing all financial ties; so not having to pay maintenance for example, along with the property and pensions and other assets. But for the financially inferior party, they may have a need for ongoing payment to have that maintenance because they need it.
MP: People always say “try and sort this out amicably if you can do it”, that is almost impossible, isn’t it?
JH: Oh no, not at all. A lot of people will resolve matters by agreement. They may involve solicitors, as long as it doesn’t become contentious, you can use mediation, you can use collaborative law where you sit around a table with lawyers and try and sort it out by agreement. So there are plenty of ways of trying to resolve it without going to court and court should really be the last option.
MP: So, mediation is working for an increasing number of people?
JH: It works for some people. I will be honest with you, I don’t think the uptake of mediation is as strong as it should be or as strong as the government would have wanted it to be because the government had a big drive to try and keep people away from the court. I don’t really think it is captured the public’s imagination, the idea of seeing a mediator who maybe doesn’t give you any actual advice but just gives you a room and a space to be able to talk to each other and guide you through the issues that need to be talked about. It all sounds a bit vague doesn’t it?
MP: It does but how does it work? Both sides come together in the same room with somebody to start the conversation then and to guide it?
JH: Well, yes. I suppose you would call the mediator almost like a shepherd, they will talk to the parties about what needs to be sorted out, for example, what happens to the house, where the children are going to live, how much money do people need to live on. Given the issues that need to be discussed, they help guiding them through it but equally the most important part is to have legal advice in the background to give some steer on what sort of thing they should be asking and what sort of things to think about.
MP: You often hear that phrase, don’t you, “divorce is too easy”, it’s not is it?
JH: Emotionally, not at all. Financially, definitely not easy and it can be an expensive process, not just in terms of legal fees but also in terms of court fees; it is £550 to get a divorce petition issued. The actual administrative process can possibly be quite simple. You file a divorce petition with the court, it is just done by post, you don’t have to attend a court. The judges don’t need very much persuasion that a marriage has broken down, but equally it is still a very difficult time for people.
MP: It is very tempting to ask you Julian, how much it costs to get divorced but that is an impossible question to answer. It depends whether people are prepared to talk and come together will lower the costs if you can do that won’t it?
JH: Undoubtedly, that is certainly the key factor to expensive a divorce can be. There are other issues, it depends how complicated the assets are. To get an understanding how to divide up assets, you need to know what there is. If you’ve got somebody with a company, or with a trust offshore, all the information needs to be gathered together, that can be quite expensive as well.
MP: Julian, thank you very much. Julian Hawkhead from Stowe Family Law
Click here to listen to the interview.