Family solicitors have defended the profession after Gary Lineker accused lawyers of fuelling hate between divorcing couples.
In an interview with the Radio Times, the sports broadcaster and former England striker called for a ‘mathematical equation’ to help couples divorce quickly so they could avoid what he called the ‘manipulative’ behaviour of lawyers.
He accused solicitors of finding ways to make couples spend more money, fuelling acrimony between the parties. His comments come months after his divorce from his second wife Danielle Bux. The couple's divorce was completed through a government website for £400.
Holly Tootill, family lawyer at Manchester-based JMW Solicitors, said: ‘It is naturally disappointing to read criticism of divorce lawyers based, in this case, on what might well be a bad personal experience.
‘All too often we are considered something of a necessary evil but our role is to guide clients to the most appropriate and fair solution for them.’
She noted that for 20 years family law group Resolution has been campaigning for no-fault divorce to help prevent unnecessary tensions between spouses.
Nigel Shepherd, chair of Resolution and partner at national firm Mills & Reeve, agreed that there should be changes to help couples divorce amicably, but stressed it is important couples get legal advice.
He said: ‘Unfortunately, it’s not always possible for people to finalise everything so quickly, or in such an amicable way, and that’s where the support of professionals is invaluable. Even where there is significant agreement from the outset, or where an agreement has been reached through mediation, couples will benefit from independent legal advice.
‘We agree entirely with Mr Lineker that there should be clearer guidance about financial provision upon divorce, so that people understand the potential outcomes and consequences of any settlement reached.
'This is one of the points we argue in our Manifesto For Family Law, and it’s important that any reform also ensures that vulnerable people are protected – we need to have clarity without a straitjacket.’
He added that removing the need for one party to blame the other would be the most effective way to help people reach an amicable agreement, and urged Lineker to support Resolution’s call for the introduction of no-fault divorce.
However Tootill described Lineker’s suggestion that divorce could be solved by a mathematical equation as ‘idealistic’.
She said: ‘There can’t ever really be a "one-size-fits-all" system because no two families' circumstances are ever truly identical. I also wonder how the already over-burdened courts would react to the prospect of even more couples representing themselves while trying to divide their assets.’