Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Divorce is like a boxing match, but it’s the children who suffer lifelong bruises

Jane Robey
As a high profile multi-million pound cash dispute begins in the London High Court, a leading family charity has agreed with a judge’s comments that divorce litigation is “like a boxing match”, but says it’s the children who emerge with “lifelong bruises” from the battle, having staggered “helpless and bewildered around the ring”.

Ekaterina and Richard Fields were married for about a decade, have two children and are now battling over assets thought to be worth around £6m. It has been estimated legal bills for the case could total around £1 million. Having urged “serious discussion” between the couple and their representatives to seek a settlement, Mr Justice Holman, hearing initial lawyer submissions, asked Mrs Fields if she had previously experienced litigation. She hadn’t. “It’s awful. Don’t you think it’s awful? It’s like a boxing match,” the judge said.

National Family Mediation CEO Jane Robey said: “The judge is right. Divorce litigation is like a big fight, but the greatest worry is that the children are caught in the middle of the battle.

“The children stagger helpless and bewildered around the ring, emerging with lifelong bruises, while the couple search fruitlessly for a knockout blow.

“The judge in this case is right to urge settlement, and it is time for the judiciary to become more vocal in its efforts to avoid court battles whether they involve multi-million pound assets or, like most divorce cases, much, much smaller sums in property, debts and pensions.

“Divorce litigation can be avoided with an open mind and a determination to put children first. That’s why family mediation works for over 80 per cent of the couples who use our services. An open mind enables warring couples to try to find a mediated settlement and, in doing so, the interests of their children are placed centre stage,” she added.

“Judges have the power to direct people who come before them towards alternatives. There is capacity within the Children and Families Act to order couples to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. Greater use of this power would be a positive way to enlighten people who seem intent on stepping into the ring. Mediation can stop the fight going to the final bell.”

National Family Mediation’s expert professionals help separating couples agree settlements on property, finance and parenting issues without the need for a courtroom drama. They achieve full agreement in over 80 per cent of cases.

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