All happy families are alike but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
This universal truth is recognised by the way the law relating to money and property on divorce works in divorce courts in England and Wales. The courts have discretion to vary property rights and money between divorcing couples as they think fit. Unfortunately, there is no monitoring system to enable solicitors and their clients to establish whether there is a different tariff for the same sort of case in different courts. This has led to calls for hard and fast rules. While it would be helpful to have records there are clear guidelines provided by statute and reported cases. Solicitors who are family specialists are aware of these guidelines when they negotiate agreements to avoid prolonged court disputes.
The purpose of this book is to give anyone contemplating divorce or separation sufficient information to enable them to decide what further advice and information they need and how to get it before coming to a decision. It is accompanied by a warning that contested court proceedings not only consume money which could better be used supporting members of the separated family but they also, by fuelling disputes, use up energy which would be better directed in re-establishing splintered lives.
In 1957 a Church of England Commission on divorce expressed the view that the divorce law should be administered ‘with maximum fairness and minimum bitterness’. In the ensuing period social attitudes and changes in the law have improved the climate for separate families but the Church of England’s objectives remain an ideal rarely fulfilled. With a marriage breakdown rate of one in three and an unascertainable breakdown rate of cohabitation