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A dignified divorce with “one couple one lawyer” by Henry Hood

5 Jul

The development of “one couple one lawyer” services is an exciting innovation in family law, enabling lawyers to advise a separating couple.

Couple sitting on a coach across from a lady solicitor

Voted “Family Law Partner of the Year” at the prestigious 2021 Family Law Awards, Henry is one of London’s leading family lawyers with over 20 years’ specialist experience. Henry is ranked as a leading individual in Chambers High Net Worth and The Legal 500, is a member of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is an accredited Resolution specialist in financial provision and private children law.

Henry has extensive experience of financial claims involving substantial wealth and complex UK and foreign assets. Henry’s clients include UHNW individuals and their spouses, ranging from bankers, entrepreneurs, senior lawyers and substantial property owners. Henry was recently instructed by Peter Phillips, the Queen’s grandson. Henry regularly advises on nuptial agreements in the context of family wealth protection, where he works closely with our leading Private Client advisors.

In this article Henry explains resolves one couple one lawyer service and how it can benefit divorcing couples.

The development of “one couple one lawyer” services is an exciting innovation in family law, enabling lawyers to advise a separating couple jointly. As an experienced divorce lawyer, I was often frustrated by the traditional approach under which one lawyer could not advise both parties to a divorce. I saw many cases where the separating couple simply wanted to know what a fair outcome would be, but their lawyers took different perspectives. It left our clients confused and risked increasing acrimony between them. 

There can also be frustration even where the parties have agreed a mediation approach; as a Mediator, I am not allowed to advise or express a view as to the outcome. This might be all that is needed to achieve an agreement.

Earlier this year I launched a new service, Resolve, through which I work with, and can advise, both parties together. My advice is informed by the needs of the family as a whole, and I encourage interest-based discussions rather than positional bargaining. Our goal is to reach an agreement which is fair to both parties and works for their family. 

Resolve reduces the risk that the legal process will exacerbate tensions, without sacrificing the benefits of high quality, tailored legal advice. It is a dignified process which encourages good communication and supports the development of a constructive post-separation relationship, which – as Nichole always emphasises – is so important to the children’s future well-being.  

Resolve generally starts with a joint meeting to discuss how the process works, check the couple are comfortable working together and explore their aims and priorities. I then hold individual meetings to make sure there are no reasons why Resolve is unsuitable – this would include things like a history of abuse in the relationship, a significant power imbalance, or emotional unreadiness. Resolve isn’t right for everyone, and some couples may be better served by a process in which they each have their own lawyer, such as mediation or arbitration.  

Once the process has begun, we meet in joint sessions. Resolve is no less rigorous than any other approach – if the matter concerns financial arrangements, full details financial disclosure will be an essential part of the process. I am experienced in working for clients with complex and high-value assets, and Resolve is well-suited to such cases. We can also work jointly with financial advisors, valuers, accountants, tax advisors, pension experts or any other professionals whose input is needed for a full understanding of the parties’ asset base. Resolve can also be used to discuss arrangements for children, as well as practical interim matters around living and financial arrangements. 

When we have collated all the relevant information, I provide joint legal advice on the law and how it applies in the parties’ situation. There will usually be a range of possible outcomes, which we will discuss, keeping in mind the couple’s aims and aspirations, and the interests of their children. 

If a settlement is reached, we have a cooling off period of a couple of weeks during which both parties can reflect on the terms. After that, and assuming there is no change, I will oversee the process, to include drafting the agreement in appropriate legal terminology, by which the Court approves it so that it will become binding. 

Resolve therefore offers the same certainty as court-ordered outcome, but through a quicker, private and more cost-effective approach. If agreement cannot be reached, then I will need to step back from the case, and an alternative process, such as arbitration, may be needed to resolve any outstanding issues. 

Ultimately, I know that most divorcing parents want what is best for their children, and believe that Resolve, as a respectful process focused on the interests of the whole family, can play an important role in helping develop a constructive co-parenting relationship.

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