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A predictable formula for divorce

Gary Lineker recently made headlines saying that there ought to be a formula to be used to sort out the financial issues on divorce. His point seemed to be that the existing system enables voracious aggressive lawyers to exploit the emotions of the divorcing couple and to stir up trouble leading to more cost which benefits only the lawyers.


Whilst a formula might produce certainty would it increase fairness? Should the split be 50/50? When a couple live together before marriage should they split 50/50 all of the assets or just assets acquired during the marriage? What about a very short childless marriage? Should that have the same formula as a long marriage with four children? How should inheritances be treated? What if the parties have very different ages? What about a second marriage? What about when there is high income but low assets? What about when the only real asset is the family farm held in the same family for generations? How should maintenance be calculated? What about if one party is too ill to work?


It's pretty clear that depriving a court of discretion would be about as fair as depriving a football referee of discretion when dealing with foul play. It would produce more certainty but give less for Gary to discuss on Match of the Day. Most commentators would say that flexibility and discretion is highly important and produces a better outcome.


These days pre and post nuptial settlements are becoming more common. They are worked out by parties using common intentions and reflect their wishes. Do we wish to deprive people of the right to make up their own minds?


The current English system contains flexibility and discretion to deal with all of the above issues which would cause problems if a rigid formula were applied. The crucial requirement for a successful divorce is not a formula - it is common sense, a realistic approach and willingness to understand and empathise. There is a simple way to remove voracious aggressive lawyers - don't use them - instead use lawyers committed to guiding, helping and explaining.


Ian is the Senior Partner and Head of Family Law at SME Solicitors. Please contact him or Joanna Gardner for specialist help and advice in all aspects of family law at  or

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Added: 24 May 2016 09:43

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