When the gloves are off in divorce – why no one wins in a courtroom battle

A High Court judge is pulling no punches in a high profile case that shines the spotlight on the very worst aspects of a confrontational and protracted divorce.

Mr Justice Holman described the courtroom fight between former Russian beauty queen Ekaterina Fields and her estranged American lawyer husband Richard as “like a boxing match”.

The 42-year-old is fighting for a £2.6 million share of the £6 million assets of Richard Fields, 59, her second husband, and father of their two children. Ms Fields also wants Mr Fields to pay her £750,000 a year to reside in a £5.5 million home located near Kensington Palace that she is keen to purchase.

The spiraling costs of litigation have seen the couple rack up £1million in legal costs over the last two years – with the latest 10-day hearing is expected to cost £250,000.

The judge, who has insisted that the case be heard in open court, told Ekaterina Fields:  “You and Mr Fields were married to each other for 10 years roughly. You have got two children. It really doesn’t have to be like this. It should never have got this far. Think about what each of you could have done with a million pounds. Just think. You should not be going on like this. Frankly, it is very, very unedifying.”

As collaborative lawyers we welcome Mr Justice Holman’s view that divorce court fights are “awful” and we applaud him for urging Mrs Fields to try to reach a settlement with her ex by “sitting round a table”.

This high profile case provides a compelling argument for arbitration, an alternative to courts introduced three years ago. As the first qualified arbitrator in Leeds  – and among the first trained arbitrators in the UK – I know at first hand that this option is not only quicker and simpler, but can also be less emotionally distressing for all parties.  Arbitration is also likely to be more cost effective because it is not subject to the same delays as the court process.

Arbitrators sit as private judges – ensuring the utmost confidentiality – and not in a courtroom setting. Both parties choose their arbitrator and control the process, which will always be conducted in private with no press invited.

Had Mr and Mrs Fields opted for arbitration two years ago, their eye-popping legal bill could have been reduced and the couple would not now be arguing whether soaring prices in the London property market mean that Ekaterina should live in Battersea rather than Kensington.

On the third day of the hearing the ex-model told the court that she has no plans to work and is a “very good wife” who is “looking for my next husband”. A former Miss World University winner, Ekaterina was Richard Fields’ fifth wife.  Perhaps both of them would be well advised to draw up pre nuptial agreements if they decide to walk up the aisle with new spouses.

If you have any questions about arbitration or any aspect of separation or divorce please call us on 0113 246 0055, leave us a comment below or drop us an e-mail. You can follow us on Twitter at @helpwithdivorce

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