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It’s curtains… When the marriage is over but you can’t agree who gets what

A divorcing couple able to agree on more or less everything apart from who kept the curtains, have finally had their dilemma solved for them by a judge.

Conservative party donor Sir Andrew Cook and interior designer Baroness Angelika Hirsch-Stronstorff are thought to have run up an incredible £1 million in lawyers bills during the battle.

In the highly unusual case, Mr Justice Holman eventually came to the aid of the warring couple when he ruled Sir Andrew could have the curtains because he was keeping the house they’d shared in London.

However, if he sells the curtains in the next five years as part of a house-sale, he must split the money with his ex-wife.

Sound silly?

Falling out over curtains may sound silly but research shows that as many as 20 per cent of divorces are affected by rows over ‘chattels’ – the legal term that refers to personal possessions.

Delays to an otherwise straightforward divorce can occur because whilst some couples can agree on pretty sizeable assets without much problem, when it comes to smaller, often personal items, it’s another story.

Examples include long-running and expensive rows over CD and book collections, a set of bed linen, smoked salmon and mustard, a suit of armour, dustbins in the shape of Disney characters, white goods like washing machines and fridges and even a much loved frying pan.

What is incredibly rare is for disputes of this kind to end up in the court room. Judges take a very dim view of this type of falling out especially when it comes to the ownership of the contents of a marital home and chattels.

Whilst they totally appreciate the powerful emotional appeal of an item cherished by both parties, they also know how easy it is for a totally disproportionate amount of time, money and energy to be spent arguing over it.

Keep it in proportion

Keeping things in perspective is key when divorcing. Here at Wards Solicitors we concentrate on keeping things amicable and focusing first on the most important aspects, such as where you will live after you separate and what any children need.

All our Family Law and Divorce team lawyers are members of Resolution, a community of family justice professionals who follow a Code of Practice which promotes a constructive approach to family issues and considers the needs of the whole family, in particular the best interests of children.

We can help you come to a mutually satisfactory decision on who gets what, but in the meantime here are some tips to help you avoid potential conflict….

  • Go through each room in the house as well as the loft, garage, garden and shed and make a list of everything that’s there. Then try to agree between you how it is shared out. This is obviously the best way forward;
  • If you can’t agree, then one solution is to pick items turn by turn from the list or agree the list and then place bids for each item with the highest bid winning and a balancing payment made to the other person;
  • If you are moving out, take photographs of important contents that will need to be considered later – just in case it’s not so easy to get back in to the property later.

For help and legal advice on this area of the law, please contact our Family Law and Divorce team or pop into one of our 11 local offices

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