Friday, 24 February 2012

Divorce feared for Google billionaire

According to the New York Post, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt is said to be putting his financial affairs in order in an effort to release money to fund his divorce from his wife of 13 years. If this is true, the couple’s divorce is likely to see one of the highest value divorce settlements in history.

It is widely reported that Schmidt is the 136th richest man in the world. If Mr Schmidt were divorcing in England or Wales, he would be advised that the first step to be taken would be to quantify the value of the assets which make up the matrimonial pot. The matrimonial pot comprises all capital assets held by either Mr or Mrs Schmidt or owned by them jointly. It also can include other assets in which they have an interest such as trusts. Valuations for all property, investments, pensions and chattels would need to be obtained and values agreed.

In this particular case, careful consideration will also need to be given to liquidity. Despite stepping down as chief executive and chairman of Google last April, it is thought that Mr Schmidt still owns considerable shares in the company. If the bulk of his fortune is tied up in investments, he may have to sell and liquidate assets in order to meet his wife’s financial claims.

The court’s approach to the division of assets on divorce is discretionary and there is no fixed formula which sets out what each party should receive. It is important therefore to seek divorce advice from a specialist Family Law solicitor as the earliest opportunity, regardless of the value of your assets.

For more divorce advice follow our family law blog or follow us on Twitter@Divorce_experts.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Family Law Arbitration

Family Law arbitration

Yesterday saw the launch of family law arbitration in England and Wales. The new dispute resolution scheme is to be run by the Institute of Family Arbitrators, a joint venture of family lawyers’ groups and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

The aim is to enable separating couples to resolve certain disputes, arising from the breakdown of their marriage, away from the courts. Instead, they would appoint an experienced family lawyer specifically trained to arbitrate the dispute in private.  Such arbitrations would be used to resolve a range of disputes, including financial issues and certain inheritance claims.

It seems that this is an entirely private initiative, launched by lawyers, rather than being backed by any legislative changes.  The advent of family law arbitration is potentially a significant development for the resolution of disputes arising on divorce. Lawyers used to think that binding arbitration could not lawfully be used in family disputes.  Whilst some legal experts have suggested that family arbitration rulings may now be binding under the Arbitration Act 1996, the position is not clear.  It may be that some agreements reached will need to be drawn up into a court order, to be endorsed by a judge.

The scheme will be nearer to the court-room process than other alternatives to court ,  such as mediation and collaborative law.  However, there are certain important, and arguably advantageous differences with arbitration.
Under the court system, the parties can never choose the judge they want to appear in front of.  Parties to an arbitration will specifically choose their arbitrator for their appropriate expertise or specialist knowledge. This would be attractive not only to the parties, but also to their lawyers. There is also something to be said for the flexible approach of arbitration - it is not bound by the many rules that are imposed in the court process but rather has a more dynamic structure which means that it be individually tailored to the parties’ needs. The arbitrations also take place in private, whereas the media can now access certain family court hearings.  This guarantee of privacy will be particularly attractive for more high profile divorcing couples.
Reaching a financial settlement on divorce  can be a very stressful and difficult experience for separating couples.  We work closely with our clients in an effort to try and avoid proceeding to court, wherever possible, exploring the various options available to them.  This new scheme may be a useful addition option available to separating couples, to help them reach a settlement, avoiding the costs and acrimony which can be generated through the court process.

Read more divorce advice on our family law blog or follow us on twitter @divorce_experts. 

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Fairer financial settlements for men on divorce?

It has recently been reported that the Chinese government has introduced legislation which abolishes the previous position whereby property was divided equally on divorce.
Traditionally, a husband in China was expected to provide the matrimonial home prior to marriage and receive no benefit on any subsequent divorce. Now, divorce settlements are to be funded according to how much each spouse contributed to the marriage.
So how does this compare with the position in England and Wales? In every case, the court takes into account a number of factors when determining the appropriate level of financial settlement. This includes contributions by both spouses (which may include gifts or inheritances received). However, there may be other competing factors which take precedence, such as the needs of the parties and any children of the marriage.
By having a checklist to which the court has regard, all financial settlements are intended to produce a fair outcome.
This is a complicated area of law and it is important that you take legal advice from a specialist solicitor.
For more advice on divorce and family law issues, follow our family law blog or follow us on Twitter @Divorce_experts.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

10 Year International Custody Battle Ends

There are reports in the news today about the end of a long-running custody battle in the US arising from abduction proceedings under the Hague Convention.
The proceedings have, according to the reports, been ongoing for almost 10 years, and finally ended this week when the child in question turned 16 and so was no longer covered by the international rules governing international child abduction, The Hague Convention.
The case centred on whether the child should be returned from the US to Chile after being removed from Chile by the mother without his father's consent in 2003.  Some of the reports focus on whether it would have been fair for the child to be returned to Chile, despite it being his wish to remain in the US.
What many people do not realise is that the Hague Convention is not intended to address the long-term arrangements for a child, or assess where and with whom the child should live in the long term, but rather, to decide which country should make those enquires and a final decision.  It is not uncommon for there to be Hague Convention proceedings in one country, following which a child is returned to the country in which they used to live, where a new round of litigation follows to decide in which country and with which parent the child should live moving forwards. A Return Order under the Hague Convention does not necessarily mean that the child will have to stay in the country to which they are returned forever.  As a result, lawyers in both countries often work together on both aspects of the litigation to protect the interests of their client and the child interests in both jurisdictions.
Any movement of a child across an international boundary, even if for a holiday, can have serious legal consequences if not done lawfully, and families with international links are always well advised to gain an understanding of the legal position at an early stage, to avoid problems in the future.
Here at Pannone, we have specialists in international children cases and child abduction who are always happy to help.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Drive-time Divorce

It's reported today that a radio station in New Zealand is running a win-a-divorce competition. An unamed man will tell his wife live on the Valentine's Day drive-time show that he wants divorce and in return the radio station will pay his divorce solicitors fees.

Such a stunt is likely to increase hostility between the couple and make it difficult to resolve the issues arising from the divorce amicably, in particular the divorce settlement.

It has to be hoped that there are not children of the marriage who could be affected.

Paying for divorce advice can be a real worry but there are many options available for funding costs which your divorce solicitor will be able to explain.

There is no need to resort to such an unkind and potentially harmful tactic which may cost far more in the long run.

For more divorce advice read our family law blog or follow us on Twitter @Divorce_experts

Friday, 3 February 2012

Tycoon grounded by divorce courts

Scot Young will today ask the court to return his passport which was confiscated in proceedings concerning his divorce settlement as punishment for his failure to provide full information about his finances.

Mr Young says the removal is a breach of his human rights and indeed the penalty does at first seem draconian - particularly as Mr Young says he wants to travel to China to undertake charitable work.

But what of the rights of Mrs Young to a fair divorce settlement? How can her divorce solictors give her accurate divorce advice without a true picture of Mr Young's financial affairs?

The case is a reminder that the court's take very seriously the obligation in divorce proceedings to provide details of all your finances and can impose harsh penalties for those, like Mr Young, who fail to comply.

Take advice from an expert divorce solicitor or you might find yourself grounded too.

Read more comment on our family law blog or follow us on Twitter @Divorce_experts