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Lineker divorce remark justified/misguided?

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Don’t blame the lawyers – they’re the only ones in the maze with a map

A leading south east family law expert is proposing radical changes to the divorce system following controversial comments by recently divorced TV presenter, Gary Lineker, about lawyers’ involvement in the process.

Former World Cup hero Lineker called for a simpler approach because, he claimed, lawyers are ‘manipulative’ and create ‘hate’ between the parties involved.

James Muir-Little, Partner and Head of Family Law at top law firm, Furley Page, says that Lineker’s comments are understandable but misguided.

“The current divorce system is a maze and the lawyers are the only ones with a map. Contrary to Gary’s comments, the lawyers I work with use every effort to emphasise to clients that the cost of disagreeing over a settlement and taking it to court will exceed the value of the subject of the dispute,” says James.

“However amicable the break-up, most couples benefit from advice about problems they might not have foreseen and need an independent third party to advise them. The problem is that the current system permits different readings of what the court may impose so advisers, quite justifiably, give different predictions about a Judge’s decision and that can lead to acrimonious disagreements.”

As a result, James agrees with Lineker that the current system is far from perfect but disagrees with the Match of the Day presenter that there can be a simple mathematical equation to financially settle every case.

“Every couple and, therefore, every divorce is different. How do you assess their relative needs? Does the parent of three children need a four bedroom house or could the two youngest daughters share a room? How many rooms does the other parent need if the children are only there at weekends? If one spouse has more than half of the equity because of their lower mortgage capacity, does the higher earner keep more than half their combined pensions by way of compensation?”

Because the answers depend on the particular circumstances of every individual couple, James has more radical and, he accepts, controversial proposals.

“First, let’s make divorce an administrative act. You don’t need a Judge to marry you, why do you need a court decree to dissolve your marriage? Failing that, abolish fault as the only basis for divorce without two years’ separation and allow for divorce through mutual consent,” he says.

“Second, stop moving the goalposts – a sentiment I’m sure Gary would agree with. Changes in the law result from decisions of the courts and that means some changes come completely out of the blue and have real practical consequences.

“Third, abolish the adversarial system. Instead of two teams of lawyers whose job is to slant the Judge’s view in favour of their client, let’s develop the collaborative process where both parties and their lawyers join forces to find the best outcome – or even the least worst outcome – for both parties.”

A less radical solution might be what James calls ‘a government sponsored flow chart’ that would help couples make some of the more difficult decisions such as whether a family home should be sold, how proceeds should be divided, what arrangements should be made for children and how pensions should be allocated.

In the meantime, he wants to remind Gary Lineker – who has gone through the pain of divorce twice - that it is family lawyers who are responsible for introducing many of the beneficial processes, such as mediation and collaborative law, which can reduce the acrimony surrounding the process.

“You see a lot of firemen at fires Gary; trust me, they didn’t start them,” says James.  

If you would like further advice, contact James Muir-Little at or call him on 01227 763939.

Author:Furley Page Solicitors