One Divorce, Two Countries and Lots of Lawyers.

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Over two decades ago, when I was still handling divorces, I needed to find a Solicitor and Barrister in London quickly. Solicitors in England are basically the same as general practice attorneys in this country. English Barristers are specialists in the law. My client would need both because this divorce was being waged in two countries. I was confronted with the most novel legal strategy of my career. Here is the story with fictional names, of course.

Jack filed for divorce from Marge in Pennsylvania after a thirty year marriage. Marge hired me to represent her. Jack had climbed high into the corporate executive structure. Marge managed their home while also working at a job but her priorities were their home life. Jack had now developed other interests in a world where Marge did not fit in. His income dwarfed hers as did his retirement plan and other assets in his name. We petitioned for temporary alimony, available in Pa. to bring some economic equality to the parties during the divorce litigation.

But Jack held the power at this juncture of their relationship and he knew how to exploit it. He wanted a divorce with more favorable terms than he could obtain in Pennsylvania so he secured a transfer of his job, established what he called a “permanent residence” in London and filed for divorce there. Marge was very hurt by Jack’s callousness.

Under English law Marge would not get alimony nor the equitable distribution of marital assets that she was entitled to in Pennsylvania. Marge needed legal representation in London to fight for her interests. Her funds were limited but we worked out a suitable arrangement. Not every person could stand up to the power-move Jack had employed but Marge was strong. She would fight.  So now I needed to find a London law firm that would work with us.  Where to start?  Very little in my legal career had prepared me for this task except for one thing. I had learned years before about the importance of building a strong network of referral attorneys to help with cases I was not equipped to handle alone. After hours of research and phone calls to my network I vetted and secured a law firm in London that would work with us to fight Jack’s divorce action in England.

Discussing legal strategy with our London legal team was very interesting.  At times our accents, the differences in our laws and legal systems made for lots of questions and  a steep learning curve for both of us. After several months of hard work, court appearances by my English counterparts, hours of phone calls and faxed correspondence, our inter-continental legal team had successfully stalled the London divorce in favor of the Pa. legal action.  Marge stayed strong and the power dynamics were back on a fair footing in Pennsylvania.

After some tough negotiations, the alimony and property settlement issues were resolved here in Pennsylvania fairly and without further court appearances.  Fortunately, there were no children drawn into this international drama. In the end all that Jack succeeded in doing through his legal maneuvering was to increase legal fees and inflict  needless emotional damage on Marge  that would leave scars on her and maybe him too for a long time.