13 November 2012
Family Law Solicitor Chris McIntosh further discusses the Kavanagh Divorce
Back in September, Edward Kitchen commented on the case of Mr and Mrs Kavanagh, the solicitors who, upon their Relationship Breakdown, spent almost their entire fortune litigating in respect of their finances and the Children. In total the couple spent either £1.7 million (according to the Telegraph) or £980,000 (according to Mrs Kavanagh). At the end of their case they were left with just £90,000 between them.
Mrs Kavanagh has now (on 4 November) broken her silence in the Sunday Times and taken the opportunity to suggest that her case exemplifies the need for a reform of the Family Justice system.
It was reported that one of the Judges who dealt with the Kavanagh case stated of the couple "They wrecked the ship, then turned their attention to the lifeboats… The ship of marriage may founder, but this couple have driven theirs full-tilt on to the rocks". Mrs Kavanagh considers this to be "overly dramatic and a bit ridiculous". Looking at the stark figure of legal costs it is difficult to agree with her.
Rather than the exorbitant legal costs being down to the parties involved, Mrs Kavanagh believes that her case is proof that family law must be reformed "completely, totally [and] absolutely."
Few Family Lawyers would dispute that the Family Justice system requires reform and that a lack of investment is bringing the Courts to the brink of collapse. However, it would be misguided to consider the Kavanaghs' case to be in any way representative of the majority of divorce cases. Many couples manage to Divorce and deal with raising their children with dignity and minimal input from lawyers. Where litigation becomes likely, Mediation must be considered prior to issuing an application for financial relief or in respect of the children.
The English and Welsh legal system provides Family Law Judges with a significant level of discretion so that each case can be resolved on its own merits. A blanket rule (as apparently proposed by Mrs Kavanagh) that capital and income should be divided equally upon Divorce would provide certainty at the expense of fairness. While Mrs Kavanagh considers that the current legal landscape is likely to reduce the number of people getting married, a blanket rule that, on divorce, assets should be divided 50/50 whatever their source seems more likely to have that effect.
The government is currently looking at reforming the Family Justice System. This can only be good news for couples who need the assistance of the Courts. However, it is important that any reform is approached in a measured manner and not in reaction to an aberrant case.
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