Bishop & Sewell

When couples separate one of the most important factors to them is the way the other party has behaved.

Some couples may be able to part amicably but others feel an overwhelming sense of being wronged by the conduct of the other which often leads to acrimony and general unpleasantness, which is all-consuming.

This has a devastating impact not only on their emotional and physical health but on wider social and family relationships.

Going through a separation is often compared to bereavement. It is a traumatic experience and has a significant impact on all aspects of a person’s life. One clear difference is that the other party is still alive and particularly if there are children involved there will be some ongoing contact and the whole relationship has to be redefined. This sometimes leads to people displaying their worst side.

Dealing with the emotional side of a separation is as important as dealing with the legal aspects. Developing thought processes and coping strategies often enables people to get through the worst and emerge in a better place.


As a family solicitor we quite often see people at the early stages of a breakdown when emotions are high. We deal with the practicalities of any separation, advising clients’ on their rights and are there to achieve the best outcome for them which does not necessarily fit with what they really want and need emotionally.

Some people harbour feelings of revenge and self-preservation. They look to the law to provide them with vindication. They want a process where there is a clear winner and loser, a forum where they can clear their name and their ex can be punished. However the reality of the family courts is very different.

Many people are shocked by the fact that there is no adverse consequence for a party who was clearly in the wrong or responsible for the end of their relationship.  There is no apportionment of blame. There are no penalties imposed on the party who committed adultery in a divorce and this has no bearing on how the matrimonial finances are divided where conduct is only taken into account in only the rarest of circumstances. The courts take a very pragmatic and unemotional view when looking at how to divide the financial resources.

Conduct in relation to decisions concerning children is only considered if there is clear evidence of violence, abuse or harm. Such allegations still have to be proved on an evidential basis. A judge is certainly not interested in every specific allegation raised by one parent against the other and will be loath to entertain battles over parenting. Sometimes even serious allegations will not even be considered if it is felt that they would have no impact on the ultimate decision. Understandably this leaves some parents dissatisfied that some allegations remain unresolved but ultimately the court will focus on a child’s welfare and will not let it become a forum for a person to clear their name. They simply don’t have the time or the resources to do so.

Cases involving injunctive relief for domestic violence and abuse are different. It has to be shown that there is a real need for an injunction and therefore the conduct of the parties will be the court’s primary focus. However in the vast majority of family cases, conduct, whilst of central importance to the wronged party, will not be relevant.

Bishop & Sewell have a team of  experienced family lawyers who will give straightforward advice and ensure that our clients know what is and is not relevant, to best advance their cases. We take a holistic and strategic approach. We appreciate that there are matters in a relationship breakdown which are not just legal. We provide quality advice which is always suited to a person’s needs and enables a client to focus better on the presentation of their case. Our advice is also practical – so even if a solution cannot be found navigating the legal channels – we will always recommend other services that will assist.

This article originally appeared in Surrey Magazine’s Luxury Issue – April 2019

If you need expert advice on divorce or family relationship issues more widely, please contact David in our Family & Divorce team. Alternatively, you can email or call 020 7631 4141.

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