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High Court judge tells warring couple to have ‘serious settlement discussion’

Divorce may be like a boxing match, but it is the children who suffer 'lifelong bruises', says family mediator

14 May 2015

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One of the most senior family judges in the High Court has described divorce litigation as a 'boxing match' at the beginning of a ten-day trial set to decide a multi-million pound dispute.

Ex-beauty queen Ekaterina Fields and her estranged lawyer husband Richard married in 2002. They have two children together, but divorced in March 2013. They are now battling over assets thought to be worth around £6m, with legal bills for the case potentially totalling £1m.

After hearing initial submissions from their respective legal teams, Mr Justice Holman urged the parties to have a 'serious discussion' about settling the case.

After asking Mrs Fields if she had previously experienced litigation, to which she replied that she had not, Holman J said: 'It's awful. Don't you think it's awful? It's like a boxing match.'

Agreeing with the judge's remarks, the National Family Mediation CEO, Jane Robey, said: 'Divorce litigation is like a big fight, but the greatest worry is that the children are caught in the middle of the battle. The children stagger helpless and bewildered around the ring, emerging with lifelong bruises, while the couple search fruitlessly for a knockout blow.

'The judge in this case is right to urge settlement, and it is time for the judiciary to become more vocal in its efforts to avoid court battles, whether they involve multi-million pound assets or, like most divorce cases, much, much smaller sums in property, debts, and pensions.'

Robey added that divorce litigation can be avoided with an open mind and the determination to put children first and urged more judges to use their powers to direct litigants away from the courts.

'There is capacity within the Children and Families Act to order couples to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting,' she said. 'Greater use of this power would be a positive way to enlighten people who seem intent on stepping into the ring. Mediation can stop the fight going to the final bell.'

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Children Courts & Judiciary