Grant Howell considers how the advantages offered by collaborative practice can particularly benefit Middle Eastern-based families looking for a smooth divorce.
With the Middle Eastern region so much in the news for negative reasons, it’s easy to forget that many British families make their homes in the area to take advantage of the thriving economic climate provided by certain states and countries. For example, according to the BBC there are 55,000 British people living in the UAE alone, mostly in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. There are a further 26,000 in Saudi Arabia. In line with long-term trends around the world, the rate of divorce amongst ex-pats in the Middle East is increasing.
Unfortunately, significant complications can arise for ex-pats based in the Middle East going through divorce even if they wish to do things amicably. On top of the usual complexities involved in cross-border divorces, there may be particular considerations regarding the tax treatment of offshore assets and property held in these states, which require specialist legal attention on divorce. Unless matters are agreed between spouses, litigation in these sorts of circumstances can run up substantial fees.
Other complications can be present concerning arrangements for children based in the Middle East. The parents may find that local law has a bearing on their plans or wishes for the children, and there may be concerns about moving the children back to the UK. All these issues can directly impact upon the family looking to make arrangements for after the divorce.
For these ex-pat couples, there are significant advantages to working with collaborative lawyers to arrive at a mutually agreed solution. The ‘teamwork’ ethos of collaborative law ensures that both adults know the advice being given, and can approach the complicated choices they need to make with a full understanding of the implications of each course of action on themselves, the other spouse, children, and other family members. Questions and differences of approach can be aired and discussed in a constructive environment focused on the future, rather than thrashed out in court adversarially.
The aim of collaborative practice on divorce is for both adults to feel that they own the final result, that they have worked to find a fair future together, and that decisions have been made in a cost-effective and open way. Research shows that collaborative law is best suited to achieve those objectives. The more complex the circumstances, the higher the risks of litigation – both in financial and family terms. This is why for international couples based in the Middle East, collaborative and Creative Divorce is a process worth investigating.
Elizabeth Hicks explains why a pre-nuptial agreement, completed collaboratively, could be a strong foundation for a happy and long-lasting marriage.
Back in the 1960’s the Beatles sang that ‘All You Need is Love’, and that was a piece of wisdom commonly handed out to those about to get married back then. Almost everyone aspired to marriage, people tended to marry young, and divorce was uncommon. Now, people are less likely to ‘fall into’ marriage than they used to: individuals and couples tend to think more carefully about its consequences, about what it means, and whether it’s the right choice to make. Financial considerations often form a significant part of the decision-making process.
There are three broad categories of people who come to see me looking for help with a pre-nuptial agreement:
- young people with a background of significant family wealth who are seeking a solution to protect assets from any eventual fall-out on divorce;
- people who have been married before, or are older, and are seeking to ensure that their children or grandchildren are provided for appropriately whatever happens in their new marriage; and
- ordinary, commercial people who understand that the workings of the English law on divorce can be unpredictable and perhaps undesirable, and wish to make their own rules about what would happen to their finances in the event of a later separation in order to know where they stand from the outset.
Whatever the reasons people have for seeking to work out a pre-nup, the perception is often that it’s done by each person talking to a family law solicitor about it, and then the solicitors writing to each other to negotiate the terms of the agreement. It’s true that in some cases this is still how it’s done, but collaborative law offers a much more positive option for working out what you want in conversation rather than correspondence, with a constructive and expert lawyer by your side working as a team with your fiancé and their lawyer. At Creative Divorce, we care about finding solutions that protect your interests and minimize the prospects of problems later, and work hard with you to achieve them.
Not only do we help with formulating appropriate, tolerable agreements about financial outcomes should the worst happen to a marriage, but as part of the process we are used to encouraging couples about to embark on married life to discuss their attitudes to financial matters such as investing, spending, charity, earning and debt, as well as wider life goals and expectations that are relevant to a shared financial future. Properly investigating these things at the outset creates firm foundations for a lasting marriage and can make it less likely that you’ll end up in my or my colleague’s office later.
You might not believe it, but many family lawyers are really old romantics!