Mr Justice Holman said that Michael Parker and Barbara Cooke who are locked in a bitter and expensive court battle “Had lost touch with reality.” So far the costs of their financial proceedings over their divorce settlement were £2m from a total of £6.6m in assets, so nearly a third. The likely costs of their trial are estimated at a further £200,000.
“If there’s nothing left at the end there’s nothing left,” said the judge.
What is going on for couples like this who simply cannot agree a settlement and seem hell-bent on pressing on with litigation, the costs of which are completely disproportionate to the value of their assets? Let’s look at some possibilities based on experience of other such cases and listening to exchanges in some mediations, where people are trying to end runaway litigation:
- Neither can back down; they feel they must ‘win’ and have the last word, win the last battle even if this means they both lose out.
- They are stuck at the angry/furious stage of the grieving cycle; everyone has to work through this at some stage – litigation can keep you stuck there for some time.
- Demonisation of each other and each other’s representatives; believing the other person’s position is ‘mad’, ‘unfair’ or that there are hidden assets to be discovered.
- Temporary insanity; I’ve heard people refer to this – saying afterwards ‘I think I went a bit mad.‘
- 75% of litigants think they will win – so a species of hope springs eternal.
- The adversarial system itself – which bewails such costs and ticks off litigants – but does nothing to stop it, despite court rules saying that costs must be proportionate to value.
Sadly such cases are all too common in divorce and in general civil cases. What about:
- The dispute between two neighbours about the costs of £4,000 worth of drain repairs in a garden – costs £300,000.
- A case mediated successfully by a Focus mediator where previous litigation costs were about £64,000, over noise between two flats, where the cost of sound-proofing was only around £3,000.
- Countless divorce cases where costs exceed the margin of difference between the parties by a considerable margin.
- The £3m divorce where costs were £930,000.
- Numerous cases Focus mediators have settled where costs have been say £20,000 or £40,000 and the case settles with no money changing hands or with a small payment.
And so it goes on. Our justice system is dysfunctional in that no one using it imagines this can happen. If people knew where they were going to end up they’d probably be much more focussed on mediation at an early stage to resolve their dispute. Which is the point really. Our mantra is ‘Stop the madness of runaway costs and mediate – it’s never too late for an outbreak of sanity.’
Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (10 Locations – Milton Keynes, Bedford, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford). Read more about family mediation (including our client testimonials) at www.focus-mediation.co.uk