Splitting The Assets

show more detailshow less detail

Episodes

First
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
20160203

2016020320160206 (R4)

A glimpse behind closed doors of the Family Courts, where divorcing couples are forced to struggle without the help of lawyers through the complex and emotionally fraught court process of dividing their financial assets. Anita Anand is joined by a panel of experts to explore the issues.

The Family Court financial remedy hearings are a battlefield on which couples fight over the division of property, pension rights and other financial assets. Cases involving unrepresented 'litigants in person' can culminate in the divorcing couple having to cross examine each other under oath before a judge.

Legal aid cuts have resulted in growing numbers forced to go through these often baffling proceedings without lawyers. Former high court judge and Chairman of the Marriage Foundation Sir Paul Coleridge is highly critical of the system, both for the stress it inflicts upon litigants and the unrealistic workload it place on the judiciary.

McKenzie Friend Nicola Matheson-Durrant complains that the Family Courts system is too under-resourced to provide litigants in person with the advice and support they urgently need.

Though the head of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has called for increased transparency in the Family Courts, financial remedy cases continue to go almost entirely unreported by the media. Legal academic Marc Mason says that the disappearance of lawyers in a growing number of cases has itself removed a layer of scrutiny.

Family law barrister Lucy Reed says it is important judges and lawyers are continually reminded of the emotional toll of the financial settlement process so that they don't become desensitised to litigants' stress.

Producers: Josie LeGrice and Matt Willis

An Above The Title production for BBC Radio 4.

20160203

A glimpse behind closed doors of the Family Courts to hear from divorcing couples forced to struggle - without the help of lawyers - through the complex and emotionally fraught court process of dividing their financial assets.

These financial settlement hearings are the battlefield on which couples fight over their share of property, pension rights and other assets. Cases involving unrepresented "litigants in person" often culminate in the divorcing couple having to cross examine each other under oath before a judge. It is a process which rarely brings out the best instincts in people, with allegations of dishonesty and concealment of wealth highly common.

Cutbacks in legal aid have resulted in growing numbers of people electing to go through these often baffling proceedings without lawyers. It's a situation which judges, put under enormous pressure to try to guide the litigants through the process while presiding over the hearings, have publically condemned.

Critics of the system claim it is unnecessarily difficult and stressful for litigants in person, and can often result in injustices. They claim the process is impenetrably complicated, and that litigants are often given inadequate support by the courts.

The head of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has called for increased transparency in the Family Courts, but the problems faced by litigants in person in financial remedy cases continue to go almost entirely unreported by the media.

Judges, lawyers, former litigants and others with concerns about the system, come together to shed light on an important and little understood area of law.

Producers: Josie LeGrice and Matt Willis

An Above The Title production for BBC Radio 4.