Negotiating financial settlements in divorce

9 Dec 2021 | Lisa Pepper

Costly and acrimonious divorces: a lesson in what not to do 

If you’re determined to pursue your financial claims on divorce through the courts, you would be wise to consider the financial risks of doing so. The specialist divorce lawyers at Osbornes Law are experienced in negotiating robust but fair financial settlements on behalf of their clients to avoid expensive litigation through the court. Where the court is necessary, they will always encourage their clients to take a pragmatic approach.

A recent ruling illustrates just how quickly costs can escalate when the parties do not cooperate. The Judge in the Family Court described the litigation as “nihilistic” with the children probably being “the main losers”.

What’s the background?

Paul and Caroline Crowther married in 1996 and together have two adult children and a 15-year-old. By 2019, the marriage had broken down and both filed for divorce. They had jointly ran a shipping business which is now in liquidation.

During the marriage, the parties enjoyed a lavish lifestyle on the back of the once successful business, the profits from their properties and taking out various mortgages.

The divorce proceedings that followed the breakdown became highly acrimonious and involved a successful application by Mrs Crowther for a freezing injunction in respect of £8m worth of assets; allegations of non-disclosure; and harsh judicial criticisms of both parties in respect of their conduct in the proceedings.

Mr Crowther, particularly, was found to be guilty of litigation misconduct and was ordered to pay a proportion of his ex-wife’s costs in the financial proceedings.

This ruling came in the third set of proceedings which, all in all, was a sorry tale of little communication and cooperation between the parties and their lawyers. Minimal attempts had been made to try to resolve even the smallest of issues, despite the parties being encouraged to do so by the Judge.

By the time of the hearing, the Judge estimated the parties’ net assets to be just £738,375. But the total costs as a result of the protracted litigation had reached an astounding £2.3m. These were, in the Judge’s words, “totally disproportionate” and it had become more a case of having to divide the debts fairly, rather than the assets.

What does this mean?

This case is an abject lesson in how not to conduct a divorce and financial remedies case. The risks of going down such an acrimonious path is the rapid escalation of legal costs and the depletion of the assets eventually available for division.

It also shows that the courts will not hesitate to “call out2 poor litigation conduct and penalise the parties by way of costs orders.”

There is a better way. Cooperation, constructive communication and full disclosure between the parties at the outset will reduce the risk of protracted, costly and distressing litigation.

You can read the ruling in Crowther v Crowther [2021] EWFC 88

Osbornes Law are leading divorce lawyers in London. The firm is ranked in the legal directories and has been named as one of the best law firms in England since 2019. We have two offices based in Hampstead and Camden. The firm is also shortlisted as London Family Law Firm of the Year 2022 at the Family Law Awards.

Lisa Pepper is a partner in the family department specialising in Divorce, finance and children matters. She is also an accredited mediator. Lisa specialises in helping parties with considerable international assets. She is ranked as a leading lawyer in Chambers UK, Chambers HNW, The Legal 500, Spears HNW directory and Tatler Advisory.

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      Legal 500 2022

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      Legal 500 2022

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    • "Lisa Pepper was recommended to me as non-nonsense and able to help me with a difficult and confrontational divorce. She more than lived up to that – she was practical, collected and always available with a clear opinion and suggestions of how to move forwards. She also was open and helpful about costs and how to mitigate them"

      Legal 500 2021

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