Why Lawyers ARE Needed in Divorce
There can be no doubt that recently divorced Heather Mills-McCartney is one of the least popular figures in the public eye at the moment. Many have passed comment about her behaviour, dress and motivation during her divorce from millionaire Paul McCartney, but it is her swipe at the futility of lawyers such as myself that, quite obviously, I find rather annoying.
In my experience most family lawyers look to reduce acrimony and try to settle cases well before a final hearing in the knowledge that in most cases parents need to communicate and co operate with each other for the benefit of their children.
I readily admit that I have a personal interest in Ms Mills-McCartney’s claims, but I also fail to understand how she can question the importance of legal representation in a divorce case, when she was supported by a team of legal experts for most of the proceedings. She only represented herself in Court, so to claim that the result of her highly publicised battle makes an entire profession redundant is highly misleading. The responsibility for ensuring case documentation was presented must have fallen on Sir Paul’s Solicitors
On the face of it, £24million (of which £16½ million was paid in cash and the rest in assets such as property) and £35,000 a year for a four year old child (inclusive of nanny and school fees) is sufficient to keep Ms Mills-McCartney in the luxurious lifestyle to which she had become accustomed. I think many people who think of themselves as ‘rich’ get by on less that £45,000 a month and, in this case, Ms Mills-McCartney can live comfortably on the just interest of such a fortune.
It is not my place to say whether Ms Mills-McCartney would have benefited more had she been represented, but when she advises others to follow her example I think she may need reminding that most women going through a divorce need the help advice and support of a suitably qualified and motivated lawyer.
Representing clients in divorce is not simply about money (though obviously ensuring that all parties are financially looked after is one of the fundamental objectives). Divorce is a highly emotive subject and a good lawyer will present arguments and evidence with the decorum and dignity that someone representing themselves may not be able to achieve. Most lawyers try to defuse the confrontation that often exists between the parties involved.
Many people use legal representation for the very reason it names suggests - they don’t trust themselves to present their case calmly and accurately in such emotionally charged circumstances. There will be questions asked and probably examination to deal with. A lawyer can help prepare, advise and protect vulnerable individuals in such situations and is also knows all the alternatives to contested litigation, such as Mediation and the Collaborative law process.
Since many commentators on popular culture have said it is her lack of ability to control her emotions that has caused the public’s dislike of Ms Mills-McCartney, I would put it to her that expert representation is something she could make much greater use both in and out of court.