Getting divorced in London – in or out of Court?

Posted by Christine Plews on
In recent years, London has been seen as a good venue for high net worth individuals to issue divorce proceedings and is often referred to as the "Divorce capital of the World".

This is primarily due to, compared to other foreign jurisdictions, a combination of:

  • the efficiency of English Court system and the approach adopted by the English legal system in assessing the factors surrounding the marriage; and
  • identifying and distributing the matrimonial assets fairly between the parties.

Division of assets

Whilst it is often felt that the English Courts favour the wife over the husband in any settlement, this is incorrect. However, due to how the English legal system operates and the fact that the Court will look at all, not just the financial, contributions that both parties have made to the marriage; it is fair to say that more generous awards are made to the 'non-breadwinner' than would necessarily be made abroad. But this should not be considered a negative – the English legal system is based on their being a fair and reasonable division of the matrimonial assets between the parties, specific to the circumstances of each case.

In Court or out?

Based on how the English Courts deal with a matrimonial dispute, is it that the majority of cases in London are conducted by way of contested Court proceedings?

As someone who, up until recently, did not work in London, my perception was that there would be a higher proportion of cases that are dealt with by way of a formal Court application. Whilst I have noticed a slight increase in the number of cases being dealt with by the Courts, in my opinion, this is driven more by the pace of life in London and individuals' desire to get matters resolved as soon as possible. An application to the Court has the benefit that a formal timetable being set down to ensure matters are resolved.

Although having a formal timetable will certainly put pressure on and focus the mind of both parties, I have always felt that this is not always necessarily a good thing. Whilst I accept that, if one of the parties has decided that the marriage is over they will be keen to deal with any issues and move on with their lives; it is important to ensure that the arrangements put in place provide for the long term needs of both parties and, most importantly, any children they may have together.

When dealing with Court proceedings, whilst I agree there are cases that will not be able to be resolved without a decision being made by a Judge, these should be the exception rather than the rule. Given the amount of non-court dispute resolutions that are available to resolve matters and the potential saving in time and costs these can provide the parties, during my career I have always taken the view that a formal Court application, save in the case of an emergency, should be considered a last resort.

When it comes to family law cases, it should never be overlooked that the issues being dealt with relate directly to people's lives and families.  Therefore, although I am now based in "The Divorce Capital of the World", if any of my clients ask me whether it would be best to deal with the financial aspects of a divorce by simply issuing a Court application; my advice is always that there are better and more effective options to try first and these should be exhausted before any Court proceedings are issued.

For help with any aspect of your divorce, please contact me or another member of the family team. We are pleased to offer a 50% discount to new clients for an initial consultation in relation to divorce proceedings.

About the Author

Photograph of Christine Plews

Christine leads the Family Practice Group and specialises in divorce and financial issues on separation, including cohabitee disputes.

Christine Plews
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01865 254213

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