Tuesday, 4 October 2011


Financial settlements are intended to reflect fairness; the division of assets takes into account various factors set out in law including needs and resources, and measured against what is invariably referred to as a “yardstick of equality.” Both spouses are meant to get their “fair share” although often there can be a sense of losing out when one or both parties’ innate sense of fairness may not correlate with the law itself. Not every separation needs to end in bitterness and an acrimonious court fight. Indeed where a couple can remain amicable, I never fail to be surprised at all the things that can be shared between them. With an increasing number of couples resolving issues by mediation or collaboration, sharing rather than dividing invariably finds potential for discussion, although it can only be properly embraced by those who are fully committed.

Top of the list is always the children and sharing the parenting of their little-ones rather than creating divisions reaps benefits for the whole family. They may be rare, but some couples manage to continue to share days together with their children and I’ve even known some still take a family holiday.

Pets too are capable of sharing. Fido doesn’t always split his time between houses but one partner can take their turn at dog-walking especially when they want a companion for a long distance ramble.

Then there are keepsakes. The prize trophy won together in the best kept garden competition transposes from mantelpiece to mantelpiece every six months.

The timeshare too is a popular choice. With the potential for a loss on sale, many couples decide to retain their joint ownership and take their holidays and pay the fees in rotation.

Insurance policies are often continued on joint lives for joint benefit especially if there is the prospect of a large final bonus or life cover to benefit children perhaps to defray inheritance tax or help meet their upkeep.

Fields can provide grazing for one person’s sheep part of the year and be ploughed for the other’s crops the remainder.

A barn or other building in need of renovation is often continued as a joint project, enabling gains to be maximised and divided.

Cars are sometimes shared, perhaps where one person works at the end of a public transport route and has no need for the family car during the week but needs it for occasional weekend trips or to facilitate contact arrangements.

Lawyers never like this but there are even couples who keep a joint bank account for ease in managing one household’s finances and on the basis that they have agreed the ground rules for operating the account.

The one that always amazes me though is when someone tells me that although the marriage has broken down and they find it intolerable to live with their spouse, they intend to remain in partnership to run their business together. Some never manage to do so and the business relationship breaks down amidst the same rancour as the marriage, but others succeed in building vibrant, thriving enterprises together. As one entrepreneur told me: “A business partnership is like marriage in that you are tied together by a contract and money. Unlike marriage though, you are not expected to share a home with your business partner.”


Divorce Blogger said...

It's always wonderful when a couple can coexist following a divorce and this can only be helped by behaving appropriately when negotiating a settlement.

When the divorce is contentious, though, it would appear that the Immerman ruling has effectively neutered many solicitors, though.

MyGeorgiaDivorce said...

Hi Judith,

I remember my lawyer advising me to get rid of my joint account (that I still currently share with my ex). I know he was looking out for my interests, but I think people have to evaluate their own circumstances.

My ex and I do not agree on much, but we do see eye-to-eye on the parenting of our children (we share custody). The joint checking account we maintain makes the transfer of payments back and forth SO much easier on both of us. It works for us.

Tulsa Divorce Lawyers said...

The child custody issue should be resolved using the 'best interest of the child' standard. Of course, applying that standard in settlement talks would require both parents to remain objective, which of course, there is no way for them to do...

Judith said...

Thanks to My Georgia Divorce for sharing the comment above. Lawyers can make the mistake of assuming that because a marriage has broken down a couple are unable to share anything.

Judith said...

Tulsa Divorce Lawyers, we prefer to use the non-intervention principle here and who better to decide what is best for their children than the parents themselves. If they decide to share arrangements, unless the welfare of the children is being impaired as a result, no decision on residence or other custodial issues is likely to be made.