Dawn French and Lenny Henry have announced their separation in the media. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to reach an amicable settlement without needing to resort to Court proceedings. They are both independently wealthy and there should be sufficient capital to enable a ‘clean break’ with each of them having adequate housing provision and allowing for their daughter Billie aged 18 to have a room at both their homes. Given that they are in their 50s and have both have had a good income, they should both have healthy pension funds and should not need a pension sharing or pension earmarking order from the Court. Similarly, neither of them would be looking to claim spousal maintenance. If matters cannot be agreed, the couple should consider whether collaborative law or mediation would assist them in reaching an amicable settlement rather than resort to Court proceedings, which are costly, stressful and lengthy. As they need to try to continue to have a relationship of some sort given that they have a daughter together, it would be sensible for them to explore ways to reach an agreement and still be speaking to each other at the outcome.
Child Support applies to a child under 19 in full time education. As Billie is 18 and probably in her last year at school, they can hopefully agree child maintenance between them without involving the CSA (now CMEC) for the final few months until she attends university. They will need to agree maintenance for her at university. If they can’t agree on maintenance during Billie’s university education, she could apply to the Court under Schedule One of the Children Act 1989 that either or both of her parents pay to her maintenance or a lump sum.
They will both need solicitors to prepare a Court Order for them (called a ‘Consent Order’ if the financial settlement is agreed between them rather than imposed by the Court). This would record their ‘clean break’ agreement. The Order gives certainty and also enables enforcement if either party failed to comply with the agreement reached.
In terms of contact, it is indicated by the couple that their separation is amicable and their priority is the joint parenting of Billie. Solicitors need not be involved in that matter, therefore.
Lisa is a partner at Osbornes. She specialises in all aspects of family law, in particular financial cases on divorce, disputes concerning children and the unmarried family. She is a qualified collaborative lawyer. Lisa is a member of Resolution National Committee, Resolution Skills Committee & Resolution London Region Committee.
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