Financial & Legal News

Family Law: A Thorny Issue

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Head of the Family Law Team at Pearson Hinchliffe LLP, Daniel Prince, says the issue of the division of the household contents is often an aggravating factor that gets in the way of a separating couple (be they married or cohabiting) being able to reach an amicable agreement. 

He encourages clients to resolve this issue without excessive recourse to solicitors correspondence, and certainly without recourse to court action, as the cost will almost certainly outweigh the benefit to be gained, unless of course an item or items are particularly valuable, such as a piece of art or an antique, where they can quite rightly be viewed as an asset of the marriage or relationship and should be factored in to any settlement. The reason for this is, he says, is that it is the second hand value of the contents that is taken in to account, and not the original purchase price.

Therefore, the separating couple should be encouraged to reach an agreement and, in his experience, this can be done in a number of ways.

“You could draw up a full inventory and then take turns in choosing an item, and ultimately both parties should be satisfied there has been a fair monetary division of the contents. Alternatively, one party could draw up two separate lists, and let the other party choose one of the lists containing the items that they wish to keep. Of course, it is also open for one party simply to produce a list of items he or she is prepared to accept in settlement, leaving the remainder in the possession of the other party. These lists can then be incorporated in to a written and binding agreement, such as a Separation Agreement or a Consent Order”.

If an agreement cannot be reached, then court proceedings can resolve the dispute, but in reality this only happens if there are other important issues to resolve such as the matrimonial home, savings, debts, pensions or maintenance.

“The Judge will not be impressed to have deal with a dispute over household contents, because of the amount of court time it will take up, and the costs that it will generate for both parties. The Judges, in my experience, make their feelings with regard to this issue known to the parties at an early stage of the proceedings, to try and encourage a settlement. In the absence of an agreement, I have known the court to simply to order that the household contents be sold at public auction, and for the proceeds to be divided between the parties. If either party wants a particular item from their own home, then they will have to bid for it. Not surprisingly, this does then lead to a settlement being reached before such drastic action is needed”.

“We at Pearson Hinchliffe take a conciliatory approach to matrimonial disputes and will do our best to promote a fair and reasonable settlement between the parties”, says Daniel, who explains all the solicitors in our family department are members of Resolution which commits family lawyers to resolving disputes in a non-confrontational way.

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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