The Consequences of Court Attempts to Defuse Divisive Division Discussions 

Published on 03 April, 2017 | Alice Couriel

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One of the fundamental elements of divorce is dividing the assets built up by a couple over the course of a marriage, no matter how long or short it may have been.

The realisation that their relationship has failed may be dealt with by many men and women, if not amicably, then almost in a state of resignation.

However, the process of determining what proportion of assets and even who should receive individual items can create difficulties all of its own.

We all become attached to certain possessions, sometimes because of of financial investment but often out of nothing more than sheer sentiment.

As my colleague James Brown has been telling the Daily Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4370074/Divorce-deal-wives-handbags.html), some three-quarters of all the cases which we deal with involve husbands and wives disagreeing to some degree about ownership of possessions or ‘chattels’, as they’re legally referred to.

Such rows can make divorces longer to conclude and, therefore, delay the prospect of restarting one’s life.

Not surprisingly, you might say, the courts are keen to prevent differences of opinion on these sorts of items – regardless of how earnest they may be – derailing attempts to reach a settlement on what are considered as the traditional cornerstones of the financial facets of divorce, such as property, pensions and cash or shares.

That is down to something called ‘proportionality’. Do these possessions form the substantial part of a couple’s overall worth?

Those efforts have been more evident as concerns about the strains on courtroom schedules continue to grow.

As a result, though, there have been complaints that courts haven’t paid enough attention to resolving ownership of things which, although still valuable, don’t assume a sufficiently large chunk of a married couple’s wealth as the principal objects on the matrimonial inventory.

There have been claims that such items have fallen foul of what some have described as a “blindspot”.

It is possible to understand where that dissatisfaction arises. We have seen cases involving men’s and women’s jewellery, furniture, fishing tackle and musical equipment, bicycles and even Christmas decorations which have exceeded the £500 limit requiring disclosure as an asset worth taking into account during divorce yet whose ownership has been overlooked.

Having said that, as a family lawyer, I am well aware that the courts are only too anxious to try and ensure a settlement which is as balanced and fair as possible while resources become ever more stretched.

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