The divorce battles of the rich and famous continue to fascinate us; the latest high-profile dispute saw a couple spending £800,000 fighting over their £500,000 holiday home, while the Court of Appeal decision in the case of wealthy energy trader Julie Sharp, who is fighting for her £7 million fortune, is eagerly awaited. For those without millions in the bank however, it’s the little things that matter, say family lawyers.
Bharti Shah, a divorce lawyer in the family team at Hodge Jones & Allen says the highly-charged emotions around divorce often see couples going into battle about the smallest of things as a way to “get one over” their estranged spouse.
The family team at Hodge Jones & Allen have compiled a list of the most common and strangest items argued over by divorcing couples:
1. Wedding gifts:
Regardless of whether a couple have been married two or 22 years, this one comes up time and time again. “Arguments can cover the full range of inanimate objects from a set of tea towels to the toaster,” explains Bharti. “Of course, it’s not really the tea towel or the toaster that’s at stake here, it’s pride and often, just another way to make their estranged spouses’ life more difficult.”
2. Music collection:
Over time a couple may have amassed a large collection of music in the form of vinyl, CDs and i-tunes. While some might have sentimental value, and vinyl may have real monetary value, it’s often important to look at what is still available out there to buy and do that, rather than incur legal costs and time arguing this one out.
The law considers pets as property, so their welfare is not taken into account by the courts, even though for many people they are an integral part of family life. However, earlier this year, a court in Alaska ruled that judges in the state had to take into account the well-being of the animal and empowered judges to assign joint custody of pets.
Bharti says: “A pre-nuptial agreement can help in situations like this but as many couples don’t have one, it often mirrors a child-custody battle, without the courts involvement, resulting in shared custody or one partner having sole custody based on their particular circumstances.”
This is often the most distasteful of all discussions and arises where one party is aware that there is inheritance due to a spouse, either because of a recent death or an imminent death. Bharti explains: “The rules here are clear, if inheritance is received or confirmed while a divorce settlement is in progress, then this becomes part of the pot of assets to be divided between the two parties, however unpalatable that might be to the grieving spouse.”
5. The manhole cover, the £5 can opener and six silver teaspoons…
“The strangest items we have seen couples argue over are a manhole cover, where one party even submitted receipts as proof of purchase, a £5 can opener and six silver teaspoons. While these might seem unbelievable to the outsider, to those in the throes of divorce, winning is what matters,” says Bharti.
For further information, please contact:
Kerry Jack or Louise Eckersley at Black Letter Communications
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Notes for Editors
Hodge Jones and Allen
- Hodge Jones and Allen is one of the UK’s most progressive law firms, renowned for doing things differently and fighting injustice. Its managing partner is Patrick Allen.
- For almost 40 years’ the firm has been at the centre of many of the UK’s landmark legal cases that have changed the lives and rights of many people.
- The firm’s team of specialists have been operating across: Personal Injury, Medical Negligence, Industrial Disease, Civil Liberties, Criminal Defence, Court of Protection, Dispute Resolution, Employment, Family Law, Military Claims, Serious Fraud, Social Housing, Wills & Probate and Property Disputes.
- In 2016 the firm launched Hearing their voices – a campaign to raise awareness and build conversations around the issues and the injustices we might all face.