In this episode Tamsin is joined by family lawyers, and podcast hosts, Liza Gatrell and Matthew Taylor from Stowe Family Law. They discuss how to ensure you get proper advice and support when you have left an abusive relationship, particularly where there is financial abuse.
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Matthew is a Partner at Stowe Family Law, where he heads up a team of lawyers across the North West including Manchester and Liverpool.
He has extensive experience supporting people to resolve the issues brought about by divorce and relationship breakdown, including financial settlements, with assets such as property and pensions, and arrangements for children.
Matthew is highly regarded for his compassionate and holistic approach and his belief in building a strong support network to help people manage their emotions during a divorce or relationship breakdown.
Lisa is a Partner at Stowe Family Law and leads a team of lawyers across Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester.
Having practised family law exclusively since 2008, she supports clients with a wide range of issues stemming from a relationship breakdown, including divorce, dissolution, separation agreements, financial settlements, child arrangements and domestic abuse protection. She also has a niche specialism in surrogacy, both domestic and international.
Liza is highly regarded for her commitment to her clients. She regularly partners with other divorce professionals, including divorce coaches and financial planners, to ensure clients get the holistic support they need.
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/stowefamilylaw
Twitter – https://twitter.com/StoweFamilyLaw
Tamsin is a Chartered Financial Planner with over 20 years experience. She works with couples and individuals who are at the end of a relationship and want agree how to divide their assets FAIRLY without a fight.
You can contact Tamsin at email@example.com or arrange a free initial meeting using https://bit.ly/SmDiv15min. She is also part of the team running Facebook group Separation, Divorce and Dissolution UK
Tamsin Caine MSc., FPFS
Chartered Financial Planner
P.S. I am the co-author of “My Divorce Handbook – It’s What You Do Next That Counts”, written by divorce specialists and lawyers writing about their area of expertise to help walk you through the divorce process. You can buy it by scanning the QR code…
(The transcript has been created by an AI, apologies for any mistakes)
Tamsin Caine 0:06
In this episode, I talk to Matthew Taylor and Liza Gatrell of Stowe Family Law. They are themselves podcast hosts. So it made for a really good conversation to speak to them. They’re actually talking to me today about how to get help, how to get legal support when you’re going through a divorce, but you have no access to funds. And this is usually because there’s domestic abuse involved in 95% of domestic abuse cases, there is economic and financial abuse also. And usually what that means is you can’t access funds, you can’t access money of your own in order to pay for legal fees. So I need to make sure that you know that you can still potentially access legal support to get you through your divorce, particularly if your spouse is accessing solicitors and barristers and paying for those out of marital funds as well. So please listen to today’s episode. I’m sure you’ll find it helpful. I’m sure you’ll find it interesting. Matthew and Lisa, very engaging solicitors. So let’s jump right in.
Hi and welcome to the Smart Divorce Podcast. I’m delighted to be joined today by Matthew Taylor and Liza Gatrell who are family lawyers at Stowe Family Law, the only national law firm dedicated to family matters with the UK’s largest team of specialist family lawyers, crikey. These two guys also host their own amazing podcast called sto talks, which is a podcast designed to support people going through relationship breakdown and all the challenges that this brings. So competition, I guess. The competition, absolutely. And thank you for joining me, and we’re going to talk a bit about economic abuse. And and we had a bit of a natter. When when we first met on this subject.
Matthew Taylor 2:07
Yeah, well, yeah, we did. Well, firstly, thank you for having us here. Trying to think competition, you’ve been going a bit longer than us as well. It is slightly odd being not happy not being the host and the shoe being on the other foot. So we will have to have a revenge attack at some point and get you on our podcast. So you can know what that feels like too but yeah, we have to, we have I think it’s a really interesting area. I think it’s a real kind of growth area a bit kind of Zeitgeist thing, I think, maybe dig into this a bit deeper. But there’s various different forms of domestic abuse and different ones get different attentions at different times. And I think they’re for a variety of reasons, people are kind of waking up to economic abuse. And that sort of family justice system is starting to recognise it in slightly different ways. So it’s a really pervasive, difficult topic, obviously, something that you’re going to be exposed to a lot in your line of work and sort of increasingly, that that we are and I mean, I certainly find it interesting. And I’m trying to raise my game on spotting it. And I guess similar for you, Liza. So what would you say?
Liza Gatrell 3:13
Yeah, absolutely. And I think clients will also come in or that they’ll have family members or friends that come to the appointment with them. And they’ll have read an article or seen in a post on Tik Tok or Instagram. And it’s kind of one of the things that they will also raise with us to say, you know, we are concerned that this has been going on. And we want you to know, so that you can deal with it appropriately through the divorce.
Tamsin Caine 3:36
Absolutely do get people coming in who don’t… do you feel have been in an abusive situation like connected, economically abusive situation? But actually they haven’t? They haven’t seen the red flags yet. They’re not aware that actually, that’s what has been going on?
Liza Gatrell 3:55
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It’s one of those things that you can look back. And you can see all those red flags that actually when you’re in it, it can be really difficult. And often, in relationships, one party kind of takes the takes the lead with finances, and the other party may have very little knowledge of what the finances are, let alone. And they just think, you know, that’s just normal. It’s normal in a relationship that one party deals with all of that. And, you know, I’m just told what I can spend given pocket money or whatever it is, if you like. And I think it’s only when you come out the other side of that, that you can then start to fully appreciate Actually, I didn’t have any of my own bank accounts. I didn’t have control over what I was and wasn’t allowed to spend. I didn’t know what the family assets were. And then I think it can be really overwhelming to pick through all of that.
Tamsin Caine 4:51
Yeah, definitely. I think you’re absolutely right. I think that it’s probably important to say that it can be a perfectly normal perfectly functioning relationships where one person takes the lead with the money. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s economic abuse going on. But there are, that can be a red flag, but there are usually a number of other things going on. You know, it’s been any I’ve said this before, but in any marriage, there’s usually it’s teamwork, isn’t it? And there’s usually one of you will take the lead on certain things, and the other will take lead on other things. And in you kind of play to your strengths. But I think, yeah, it’s like you say, when you haven’t got a bank account, you haven’t got access to your own money? You know, you ask, and you’re not, you’re told that it’s nothing to do with you. You know, there are other other things. Matt, I think it might be useful to, to kind of put some definite, I’m going to put you on the spot here. Some kind of definition behind him economic abuse, can you can you give us kind of a sort of overview of what it what it actually is?
Matthew Taylor 5:53
I think it’s kind of I mean, I’m gonna slightly duck this question, because it is very hard to kind of explain, it’s a bit like, you know, it’s a bit like an elephant is I couldn’t describe it to you exactly. But we all know, or we see it. And I think what’s more helpful is rather than any kind of set definition, because there isn’t, particularly to my knowledge, a sort of legal definition of it is more about the impact of their house and the sort of behaviour. So I think looking at the kind of behaviours are important, I think it’s important to recognise and sort of touched on it, that there’s a continuum. And there’s a spectrum. And that can be from some my relationship, I do monthly spreadsheet at the start of each month, and speak to my father, and we tweak it, and we have a look at that, and then probably ignore it for the rest of the month. But that’s our approach to budgeting and me doing that is not I think, I hope he’s not financial control, because we both got saying we’ve got both got autonomy, and ignoring spending on what we like, and we’re awash in money anyway. And what you want the sort of red flags of things that really if you’re having an initial conversation with a client, making alarm bells ringing, for me are things like not having a bank account, not having a bank card, having to request permission for everything, been kept secrets from, you know, being that you said, obviously, your business, I’ll just deal with that. It’s about not having autonomy, is the way I look at it is the the control of the finances is such as to prevent a person from having autonomy to do as they wish. And that’s not the same as saying, Well, I was emotionally controlled, because my husband wouldn’t agree to spending a 10,000 amount holiday and then once a 5000 pounds holiday, you know, you do sometimes hear that you think well, that’s not quite, that’s not control, that’s disagreement. But it’s literally not having the autonomy to do stuff, not having the financial wherewithal to make decisions on your own. This is my sort of the way I’d kind of categorise it, let’s say you got a better, you probably do have a better approach to me or a better definition.
Liza Gatrell 7:59
No, like you say, you can’t you get a feel for it don’t use as somebody’s talking, and it’s not… there’s so many different ways that it can come about. So you know, we’ve talked about a few, but it may, it may be that you have perfectly, you know, normal conversations, if you’d like in the relationship about working about returning to work as children get older, etc. And it may be that one party really want you know, what we’ll talk about, you know, that can be perfectly normal in relationships, that one party stays at home and the other party works. But it may be that the party that staying home really wants to go back to work, and when he wants to have their own income. And they’re, they’re told that they shouldn’t do that. And they don’t need to, you know, don’t be silly, you don’t need to do that. You know, we’ve managed so far, we’re absolutely fine. You need to you need to be at home. And it’s that control over. It’s the control over them having the ability to to require their own finances, them having the ability to utilise or use their finances as they want to, or to maintain them as they want to. So it is quite broad. And as Matt said, I think it is more of a feeling. It’s not one thing, it’s lots of little things that give you this feeling that there’s kind of an undercurrent of financial abuse there.
Matthew Taylor 9:11
Yeah, just slightly contradict what I earlier said is that there is a there is a legal definition of economic abuse. And I’m thinking when I said that, I was like, that’s not quite right, because section one four of the best to give you 2021 defines economic abuse as any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect on the party’s ability to acquire, use or maintain money or other property or obtain goods or services. So it’s that substantial adverse effect. Now, that’s the legal definition. I’m not sure how helpful that is on a day to day basis in spotting abuse, which is why I kind of looked more towards the behaviours. There is a line in the in a case which we’ll talk about, and I mean, you’re talking with lawyers, so you’re going to have to have a little bit of case law, I’m afraid which is deeply to try and keep it to a minimum. But it was described, the party’s conduct in a case was described in that as the exploitation of a dominant position, which is an assessment, which is, in essence, that which is the essence of all forms of abusive behaviour. So that’s something common to all forms of abuse. So I think, you know, those are a couple of definitions, which might point but they’re so wide, they’re so wide as is to be difficult to categorise. And it comes back to the continuing the spectrum, you know, a substantial adverse effects on the party’s ability to do those things. You know, that, that can have a huge range of outcomes?
Tamsin Caine 10:36
Yeah, absolutely. I think, between the two of you did a really good job of financial abuse and economic abuse. So I think your examples were, were perfect for financial abuse, and then the addition of lasers kind of covered economic abuse as well, which financial abuse is kind of part of so think that it’s kind of that it’s not just that just controlling money base can help control in their ability to earn as well, or their ability to gain education. So I did a course with surviving economic abuse are a fantastic charity that I know you guys are aware of, as well. And, and their course was talking about the spouse had rundown their petrol in the car, because they knew that their spouse was going for a job interview, and they’d taken all the bank cards, so there’s no access to money to put fuel in the car to get to the interview. And it’s, that may be feel like an extreme example, but actually, I don’t think it’s that extreme, when we’ve, you know, if you’ve come across this, that sort of abusive clients actually go, Yeah, I’ve seen that I’m, I’m much worse.
Matthew Taylor 11:49
And it can be dozens of those sorts of things every single day. You know, it’s one of the difficulties historically with how this has been catered for, in particularly financial remedy proceedings following divorce, is that you’re looking at such an enormous number of incidents on that our own, you know, might not have the sort of what we call the gas factor not might not be something horrific, in and of itself. But it’s that kind of that burden of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds over the course of, you know, can be years and years and years to really build up.
Tamsin Caine 12:26
Absolutely, it’s that it’s that dripping tap torture, isn’t it? That it’s, it’s, it’s not that one instance, on its own. It’s the accumulation of that over and over and over again. And the thing, one of the things we want to talk about is that if you’re in a situation where there’s financial or economic abuse, how on earth do you get help, because you feel like you’re isolated? You haven’t got access to money, you feel like if you found a lawyer and say, I need to leave my spouse, I need to get divorced from them. You, you’re in the wrong place, because this list is gonna go, right. Well, I need x pounds per hour. And so how do you get the help and support that you need yourself? So do you want to join it give us some ideas, they sort of have well, where somebody can go in that situation?
Liza Gatrell 13:20
Yeah, first of all, I mean, it’s worth looking to see whether or not you’re entitled to legal Legal Aid. It’s not something that we do at Stone, but it may well be that they are entitled to legal aid, one of those sorts of hurdles for legal aid is that you are the victim of domestic abuse. And then if you don’t have any of your own income, it may well be that you’re able to secure legal aid to help you through the divorce process.
Tamsin Caine 13:43
Where does somebody go to find out? Well, a to find us solicitor who might do legal aid? And if so, like, how do they? How do they go about finding if they’re eligible, I guess are my questions rather than putting you on the spot?
Liza Gatrell 14:03
So I mean, I would suggest a good old Google Search to begin with as to local solicitors so solicitors local to you that do legal aid, and then I would speak to them speak to them, often, they will have a quick chat with you on the telephone. And they will almost go through I know certainly a firm that I worked for previously that did do legal aid, they would almost triage it over the telephone to be able to see whether you were likely to sort of hit that criteria for the legal aid agency. So I think it would involve just a conversation initially, if they felt like you were going to be eligible they they could they could then tell you what you needed to do or what you needed to provide them but come in for an appointment and all the rest of it.
Matthew Taylor 14:47
There is also government calculator which can give you a step through it. So it’s the ‘check legal aid service’ and you can go through and you can identify the type of legal problem you have. You can go through and say it’s a family problem, it’s finances, you know, you, whatever it may be. And you say, well, it is or it isn’t available for this type problem. This is why there might be a housing dispute, you know, you can have a look at it and say you can get it or you can’t, I’ve never done legal aid. So I’m not at all familiar with the provision.
Liza Gatrell 15:14
You do have the two hurdles, you have the domestic abuse hurdles, you have to be able to show that you’re the victim of domestic abuse, which actually is probably isn’t as hard as it sounds, particularly if we’re dealing with a case where there is financial abuse or economic abuse there. And then there’s the financial criteria. So you have to show that you meet the financial illiteracy, and that’s not just about income, that can also be to do with capital as well. So it gets more complicated then. So it is worthwhile using like Matt said, using the online calculators, but also speaking to somebody that does this day in and day out, and will be able to have a much better idea of whether you fit that criteria or not.
Tamsin Caine 15:52
Brilliant, thank you, we’ll put a link to that calculator in the show notes. So people can find that. Sorry, I told to do in mid flow there, just to make sure that we’ve got those questions. And so yeah, so first step, are you eligible for legal aid?
Liza Gatrell 16:09
Yeah, if you’re not eligible for legal aid, or it’s likely that you’re not going to be eligible for legal aid, there are applications that you can make. So we often quite help clients who are in a vulnerable position financially, perhaps all of their assets or income, you know, the matrimonial assets or income are held in their partner’s name. So there are two applications that we can make in these circumstances predominantly. So the first one is for interim maintenance. So that’s where one party perhaps has all of the income. And they’re not, they’re not making any payments to assist with outgoings of the house, you know, food, mortgage payments, rent, whatever it is. So it’s your general immediate needs. And that application is slightly different. So when we’re looking at long term maintenance claims, so it is very much about immediate needs, and what’s required now to get us through to the end of the end of the case, if you like. And so you know, we can make that application. And we can also make an application for payments towards legal fees as well. So that’s a legal services provision order. So there’s two applications that we can make to assist with that. But I suppose the proviso with that is is that these applications are interim applications, you very much then have to make an application to court. So it removes some of the ability to do things like mediation and sort of all of the out of court options that we would usually really promote. First, it very much requires an application to court, it also means that there are going to be extra hearings, because we’re going to have to have extra hearings to decide whether or not these orders should be made. And there is an additional cost that comes with that. So it is it is a catch 22. That being said, if you are successful in those applications, unlike with general family applications, where you both pay your own costs with these interim applications, if you’re successful, then you can often get a cost or two that the other party may pay your costs as well.
Tamsin Caine 18:01
Okay, I like I like the idea that. That sounds, makes it sound a little bit more fair. Because if you’re if you kind of chopping off the the out of court options, you’ve already known that your costs are going to be higher than perhaps if you could start. Matt, you look like your itching to say something.
Matthew Taylor 18:23
Yeah, I think no no that’s all exactly right. And that kind of fear of or strings into court proceedings is pretty scary for people. And I think, you know, the first step in before making those applications is always going to be the always be generally going to be writing to the other party or their lawyers and saying, Look, this is what we need, you have to set out your case, first, you have to say, I need X amount to pay the mortgage, the bills, bla bla, bla, bla bla, that’s how much you need to pay, and you have this money, so give us the money. And if they refuse to do so I’m reasonably that’s when you make the court application. Something else that can be used, particularly prior to the Legal Services order. But also in terms of interim maintenance, you can use these to find living costs, litigation loans. So you know, another way that that and this is, this is a catch 22 points. People don’t know about this until they speak to a lawyer. But if they’ve got no money, they think I can’t speak to a lawyer. This is the problem. But these are something that we use quite a lot. And it can mean all sorts of cases from small licence to the kind networth stuff. And that is why there are certain a number of litigation loan providers who, as a lawyer can speak to and say, Here’s my case, here’s what the assets are. Here’s my view of the range of likely outcomes at the end. Here’s what it’s going to cost in legal fees if it goes all the way to final hearing, which can be like an eye watering sum. And potentially here’s what my client needs on an interim basis. You know, will you learn that and subject to lending criteria, you can get loans, which will then be repaid from any settlement. Now they attract interest. So it’s also credit card levels of interest. So it’s not a cheap way to borrow. That said, there’s some case law, which I’ve managed to successfully deploy a couple of times, which says, Well look, if your spouse is unreasonable as held money and refused to give it you to pay legal fees, and you’ve had to take a loan out, because then your spouse should bear the interest costs on that. So I’ve just had that successfully in the case. So because that can be a real controlling point, you know, someone who is financially controlling, I mean, spouses hate paying the legal fees of the person who’s supporting that spouse. I mean, it’s the number one most hated thing I think, but especially so when they’re paying X charges of that, so that there is stuff that can be done. And there’s usually usually an outcome, but somewhere along the lines unless there is, you know, you run into difficulty if someone has squirrelled assets away completely out of reach, you know, transferred and third parties and things that becomes very difficult because then it might not be attractive for a loan, you know, the court is going to struggle to make orders that are going to be sufficient in those cases, you can get there, but you have to be quite creative. And obviously, that leads to increased cost. But is that is that point is that there’s normally options? Most people have got options, but most people don’t always feel that they can get to that first meeting to discover what their options are.
Tamsin Caine 21:08
Yeah, no, I think you’re absolutely right. Just a question on that. If you’re, I guess for either for the cost or for the for the litigation loans, like go, or you can use a lawyer, but you have to use one that costs no more than x an hour are awesome. They’re like limits to these things. So can you then choose who you want to represent you.
So with the litigation load is listed as to make the application. So we have to be very careful that we’re not promoting or giving any financial advice as to, you know, whether it’s better to get a litigation loan taken over a friend’s credit card or, you know, bank loan, however, you’re going to do it. There are a number of companies, they’re all slightly different in what they offer, as far as their terms with litigation loans are concerned. And it’s often best in the first entrance into the first step for the client to ring a couple of them and have a quick chat with them on the phone to see kind of what their terms are. But if the client then decides that they want to go ahead with a litigation loan, it is the solicitor that has to make that application on their behalf. So the solicitor will make the application.
Okay. Yeah. All right. That’s good. And, um, this, I guess the same with the with the legal costs, or just that way, is legal services provision, legal service. Eventually.
Matthew Taylor 22:42
Yeah, that means something like that legal sense. But I think with an LSPO, there we go. What the court is looking to establish as equality of arms, if your spouse is using a high street law firm, and you are making the LSPO of your spouse to find you to go to the top is that the top London lawyers, the courts likely to raise eyebrows better? It’s about equality of arms, the courts also not conversely, they’re not going to say, well, your spouse has got the top lawyers in the country, you can go to someone who does a little bit of family law, but he’s predominantly an immigration lawyer, you know, they’re going to try and achieve fairness. And it’s going to be tailored to that particular case, the sort of the demands of that case.
Tamsin Caine 23:25
Okay. And did they, they sorry, for all the questions, but they do, do they specify the kind of what the moneys used for does it is only for lawyers? Does it cover barristers? Does it cover court fees? Does it cover any,
Liza Gatrell 23:46
Any any legal costs, so any disbursements, any barristers fees, any work that we do, it would cover all of it?
Matthew Taylor 23:55
..valuation reports, if there’s a company to be valued or property or tension sharing reports, you know, it’s really helpful. The full legal services as part of the application, you know, obviously, at the start of every case, we were able to find the cost estimate, as part of the application, we provide our cost estimate to the litigation loan provider, you update those as you go and make sure that you’re on track and you still have the facility, you know, all those things to keep keep updated. And as I say, some I’ve also had them in a couple of cases where they will fund living expenses, and you say, well, client needs X amount per month to live on and isn’t being funded. So they’ll say, Well, fine, we’ve got we can pay that out to the client and that relieves the pressure. And what that does do is there’s some extra costs of you know, the loans and things but it doesn’t save lawyers fees, you send one letter centre, you’re gonna pay this money or get a litigation loan including interest. And if the other side come back and say we’re not paying this money, you say, Okay, fine. And that saved like three months worth of legal arguing about Go on. They’re not going to Well, what about this much how about this much? You just crack on with it?
Tamsin Caine 24:53
Yeah, yeah. No, I like that. I like that. And you did mention before about actually borrowing the money from friends or family. I know, obviously that isn’t an option for everybody. And in many abusive situations, they’ve been isolated from friends and family. So that definitely isn’t an option. But, but it is an option. How does that play into the divorce settlement? Because you kind of hear things about loans from family being treated differently to formal bank loans, et cetera. So how does that work in when you separate in finances?
Matthew Taylor 25:33
So we talked about two different types of loans, you’ve got hard loans and soft loans, and hard loans in family proceedings are those that are strictly legally repayable, your mortgage, you know, credit card, something that if you don’t pay it, you’re going to have some issue proceedings to recover. soft loans are loans that may or may not be repayable, and the classic soft loan example is, oh, my, you know, my parents has loaned me 25 grand for my legal fees and need it back, thanks very much. And there’s no documentation behind that. And they’re treated very differently. So there’s a case called p and q, which is from the start of 2020, to a decision of His Honour Judge house, which set out when the court should consider hard loans against soft loans in the house, they should be repayable on that, as a general rule, the court will say, if that money isn’t legally recoverable, so it’s not been documented, and or if the party just wouldn’t do it. Because, you know, if this money is recovered, you’re not going to have enough money to buy your house and you’re still mates with your parents mates with your parents, but you’re still close with your parents, then realistically not going to do it, the court might find that it’s this offload, which can be quite harsh, because I’ve had clients who have borrowed huge sums of money from friends and family. And that’s all that a final here and, and wants, you know, part of the way through, but they’re probably not going to get this back. I’m not long ago taken over a case, which is, gosh, I watching legal costs, and it’s come to me fairly late in the day. And they don’t think the monies that have been advanced for that by my clients, friends and family are strictly going to be repayable, and it’s really horrible news to have to say that. So our advice when if someone is thinking about borrowing from friends and family, is to enter into some sort of formal loan agreement, or prior to making so I’m doing the case at the moment when we find is needing a bit of cash to fund the last bit of money and have equity in the house. But there’s no ready cash. So she will be a good litigation loan candidate, but she will not carry the interest. So there will be a letter going off to the husband saying, look, a friend is offered loan X confirm that you will agree that that loan gets repaid, if you don’t confirm that will go from litigation loan that’s got interest, and we’ll try to charge that to see. So then the husband is left to decide, am I going to agree in which case when we say well, that’s agreed, so it’s locked in or not. So you just need to be strategic in the way you go about it formal loan documentation, agreements and correspondence. That sort of thing can really help. Because yeah, there are lots of people who can come a cropper with these soft loans and they and then you come up against the legal obligation to repay, which may not exist. But the moral obligation to repay those monies is huge. You can’t borrow 10 grand off a friend and not expect your friend to want it back. You know, people need that money.
Tamsin Caine 28:20
Yeah, absolutely. No, totally agree. Okay, so we’ve found out how to get some representation and be properly supported through the process. What banana skins are we going to come across through the process if we’ve been in a situation where there’s been economic abuse? So I’ll come to you first Liza.
Liza Gatrell 28:43
So I think often it’s just the hiding of the under than if you don’t know what the assets are, even when you get that for me disclosure, so the financial disclosure, so the bank statements, their company accounts, all of that type of stuff. You don’t necessarily know what might be missing because you’ve had no idea throughout the relationship, whether there was bank accounts with NatWest, Nationwide, Barclays. And so it might look all very lovely and put together and completely normal. And you have to really then dig deep into those accounts to see if there are transactions perhaps going out to another account, that give you kind of a peephole into what might actually be going on behind the behind the scenes. Yeah, the other ones that we tend to get are. And it seems to be quite a big problem is people taking out cards in other people’s in their partners names. So credit cards and loans. It’s so easy to make these applications online these days. That as long as you’ve got your partner’s information, suddenly it’s like, oh, I didn’t realise all those debts were remaining. Or if you’re in a relationship, and it’s just like, oh, they just asked me to sign in. They said it was to do with mortgage and so I’ve signed it and suddenly it can come out. You know, as far as banana skins are concerned, it can come out that there’s a huge amount of debt that that was in the current standard they didn’t they didn’t know about. And it’s then trying to manage all of that.
Tamsin Caine 30:06
Yeah, absolutely. How’s how’s that dealt with then? Because it must be very difficult to prove you didn’t know anything about it. If it’s in, you know, what’s in your name?
Liza Gatrell 30:18
I think that’s the problem, though, isn’t it? Is that often it’s how do you prove that you aren’t the one that pressed the button on the Internet application? How are you? How do you prove that you were told that the document was something that it wasn’t when you signed it? And often we are stuck with those debts being in that person’s name. And we just have to resolve that within the within the overall settlement?
Tamsin Caine 30:44
Yeah, it’s really terrifying, isn’t it? There any of the situations in cases that you’ve dealt with? I know you talked at the beginning of our conversation today about a case that was it from last year that that had been was quite high profile in this sort of area?
Matthew Taylor 31:03
Yeah, absolutely. And I think this is, I think, one of the, the sort of, I mean, a couple of a couple of big announcements or transfer of assets and dissipating assets, and someone transferring shares in the family company into someone else’s name or transferring property. And it’s not realising that and saying, Oh, I know he’s got this company, and then you realise that a year ago, shares were transferred out. And that’s, that’s sort of one thing that can come out. And there are ways of dealing with that. And historically, that’s been the source of financial shenanigans, that, you know, that may amounts financial abuse, yeah, shenanigans, that can amount to abusive behaviour, but the court can kind of readily address because it can look at individual transactions. So these big, big ticket items, and say, Well, that should be reversed. It’s called an add back argument, or it’s called a when you make what’s called a, you make an injunction applications have these transitions set aside, disposition set aside, and quite easy to identify, not necessarily easy to get set aside, but to identify, and if you can kind of establish what has been called the Gasp factor, then you can have that taken into account in proceedings. What is a lot harder, and has this starting to change is those we’re talking about the kinds of water torture comes Drop, drop, drop, drop, drop, and you’re not looking at an individual 50 grand that was transferred to someone’s brother to hold of therefore that should be put back in the pot. What you’re looking at is a series of transactions that amounts to financial control and economic abuse. And there was a case study, it was called BNP, and EP, which is the first reported case from a circuit judge, Charlotte, Judge Reardon, where it just very briefly, there were a number of these big ticket transactions in that case, and they will reverse the set aside because they all hit the gas factor. But in that case, was quite unique that it was the wife who was found to be the abusive one. And the husband in that case, was illiterate. And what the wife had been doing, basically taking advantage of the husband by controlling things. And this is where the phrase, the exploitation of the dominant position came about, and the fact the husband was unaware throughout the motion of the wife done this, and she was able to control it, she took advantage of his situation. And then doing that, and the judge, taking a view of the circumstances and saying that, you know, here, this does have this gas factor, which has been required previously, because of the illiteracy, and it’s quite stark findings, as well as reversing those individual transactions. Once you’ve done that, you then had a general adjustment from sort of 50% to 52%. So it sounds a lot, it was quite a reasonable sum of money to then give the husband a bit more to kind of cater the fact what look, there has been abusive behaviour, it’s probably led to some of the loss of assets I can’t quite identify, but that our behaviour is reflected. And that’s really the first time that that’s been taken into account and what she says in that judgement. We’re saying that look, you know, not all cases involving economic use will have the gas factor. This one does, but I don’t think it all has to. And I think, you know, the banana skins to go back to in your phrase, The dinar in the skin as you come out and just money has sort of tripped away and there isn’t money there. And you kind of you have a client who’s sitting there looking like well, I thought we’re okay, we live in this nice big house and kids have gone to private school and why is it all gone? And in those circumstances, if you can establish a pattern behaviour, you can now sort of rely on this case and there will be I think continuing developments off the back of this judgement is similar to judgments when the court really refines its position in a bit more detail. You know, there will be at some point a court of appeals decision which will be this isn’t precedent forming because this is the first instance decision but the Court of Appeal will, I’m sure to grapple with this and try and now that there is a wider understanding of the nature of financial economic abuse. Look at in what cases should we talk about conduct arguments in in financial committee proceedings and the phrases conduct such as would be inequitable disregard and brilliance 1970s statutory language reaching a threshold of inequitable disregard, things have changed over time, because it’s affected by what is seen as science fully acceptable. And, and there will be more cases, I think, develop that, but I think there is kind of some hope for victims of financial abuse, but the court is now starting to be more prepared to recognise that okay, you don’t have to just say, well, this property was bought in place in the name of someone else, you can say, well, in general, throughout the marriage, that has been such a controlling dominant abuse of a dominant position in respect to the finances, that actually it should be more general adjustment in my favourite because it’s had a negative financial impact on me.
Liza Gatrell 35:58
Yeah, I think it’s really difficult, though, as well, because, you know, we talked about needs trumps all. And often, whether or not the court can, you know, you have a moral argument as to whether conduct should be taken into account. And then we have the everyday practical, what’s available for distribution. And it can be really, really difficult because ultimately, you know, the courts do have its the Matrimonial Causes act, essentially, section 25, we have criteria that we have to take into account, we’re looking at what will be a fair settlement conduct is one of those criteria. But, for the vast majority of cases, we need to meet basic needs. So we need to ensure that both parties are housed, we need to ensure that both parties have a reasonable income to meet their monthly outgoings and pension resources from the assets of the marriage. And actually, for the vast majority of cases, there’s only just enough money to do that. And so then, for the courts to then start penalising for conduct may result in one party not being able to house or meet their monthly outgoings and in search in circumstances like that, you know, the courts meet needs trumps everything, and the courts might recognise that the behaviour was poor, but may not be willing to go that step in in penalising that person financially, if it’s going to have such a fundamental impact on the ground. And I guess that’s one of the things where it just feels it feels unfair, sometimes that, okay, if we had X number of assets, that would be taken into account, but because we’ve only got this, that’s not going to be taken into account. And that can be really, really difficult, particularly for clients in lower asset cases, to juggle with, because actually, you know, we often when we’re looking at, for example, amounts in bank statements being transferred out, it’s not uncommon for judges to say I am not going to look at anything that’s less than 500 pounds. Now 500 pounds as a single transaction in a multimillion pound case is a drop in the water, but 500 pounds in a single transaction for a couple that earning 15,000 pounds each and every house that’s valued at 300 300,000 is a huge amount of money. And again, it’s that it’s really, it’s these, these cases are really difficult for that for that reason. And we do have often have to take a bit of a broad brush approach, because legal costs escalate significantly if we start looking into every little thing. And it’s about weighing up that cost benefit analysis all the time. Which is why as I say, I think these cases are so so difficult.
Matthew Taylor 38:45
And I think that’s the actual structure, the structure of financial remedy cases, as well, which I’m sure your listeners will be familiar with, is that there are essentially three, three hearings, and most cases settle at the second hearing. And it’s very, very expensive to run to a final hearing. And if you want to get findings, that there has been economically abusive behaviour, to such a degree that you should be reflected in a substantive award, then you either settle on that basis. And logically, if there isn’t an abusive personality, then they’re not going to be willing to settle on that basis, because they’re abusive. So you’ve got to run it all the way to a final hearing, which is expensive, costly and risk laden, because there’s always risk and mitigation. So you have to be really very confident that it’s worth doing that, that there is that cost benefit analysis pays off and that you’ve got the available funds to do it and it’s proportionate to the overall assets and you’re still going to be able to meet someone’s needs. So you’ve got quite a convoluted kind of multi wheeled firm diagram going on there to get to a point where you can win that argument is getting easier, certainly, but it still you know, it may sound quite callous, or it may saying sound quite hard nosed but I have said to clients before I just don’t think you should run this I think you’re right, I think morally You’re right. But legally, and cost wise, I can’t advise you to spend this money on us. Which might sound a bit like not fighting a corner. But you’ve got to give that advice and be and be absolutely realistic. And, you know, you don’t want to be throwing good money after bad.
Liza Gatrell 40:16
Yeah. And sometimes it’s better actually to accept to get a settlement that meets your needs to split those finances off, have had that control, and perhaps get some education speak to a financial advisor, because often clients in these circumstances don’t don’t know what options are available. As far as you know, they might not they aren’t the ones that have dealt with the mortgages, they aren’t the ones that have open savings accounts or investments, etc. So, you know, the best thing that they can do is set themselves up now to move forward and educate themselves moving forward, rather than potentially spending 10s of 1000s of pounds on a on a final hearing to get those findings, but it is it is really difficult, because, you know, you feel for clients, and we all know what’s morally, what was morally right and wrong in circumstances. But it’s definitely decided, yeah, having to make that difficult decision as to what, what’s right for that person so that they can move forward.
Tamsin Caine 41:11
Yeah, no, absolutely. I think it is important to say that the economic abuse isn’t doesn’t, it’s not only affecting people who were at the lower end of the scale, it is literally right across the board from your wealthiest. Right, right to the ones who and there are considerations, in all cases, depending on on as you say, you know, the costs as well, as well as everything else. And I feel awful during this because I really could have this conversation for very, very, very much longer, but we’ve kind of come to the end of our time together. So just before we say goodbye, any last thoughts that you think are important for us to get out there in the wide world? Sure, I’ll start with you, Liza.
Liza Gatrell 41:59
I think it’s find your support network. So you know, get some legal advice. But also speak to a financial advisor, have a friend or a trusted person that you can also talk to, because like you already say people that are in these circumstances have often, you know, may have lost contact, conduct contact with lots of family and friends. And they are going to need that that support. So I think that’s almost they need to they need to educate themselves on on what’s going to be involved in the divorce, but also what’s going to be involved in rebuilding their finances, moving on from the divorce, and also getting that emotional support. So yeah, fine. Find your network and build your network.
Tamsin Caine 42:39
Perfect. Thank you. wholeheartedly agree with that? Matt, anything from you?
Matthew Taylor 42:46
I think, my if anyone’s listening to this and thinking, crikey, that’s me. And how am I going to help get help or coach does a friend how can I help them? I think the first thing that can be done but doesn’t have an immediate cost is educating yourself a little bit. So you know, listening to this has been a great start. But there are plenty of other resources online too, that can help you be prepare yourself and be as smart as you can. And then that can lead you to finding a lawyer who will do a free initial meeting, you know, go through the legal aid thing, there are loads of resources, I’m going to shamelessly plug the snow support website, which houses all stone family laws, Miria blogs and webinars and podcasts and things where we talk about abusive behaviours a lot. And that’s the other thing is to recognise that economic abuse often comes hand in hand with physical abuse or emotional abuse or, you know, abuse of the children or whatever it may be. So, so you need so you can educate yourself and do your threat quietly and get and get ready. And then when you speak to hopefully get in the position where you’re going into the lawyer. And then you can say to a lawyer in the first meeting and a half hour free call, whatever it may be. I’ve heard about I’ve got concerns about my funding. Here’s my asset position. Do you think we can get anything and you can cut straight to chase and Lloyd to say that yes, we can, or I can’t but I know a lawyer who can because most lawyers will refer on to friendly contact so you can do it so I think it’s that self education piece which give can give an abuse victim the confidence to then take the next steps.
Tamsin Caine 44:16
Absolutely. I totally agree. And on the subject of of free stuff that’s available. Our website has loads bugs. Similarly, also season four episode 14 with Dr. Sharps Jeff’s of surviving economic abuse. season four episode 14 Rosie Lyons talking about money issues and abusive relationships and season for safe betting with dots prayer McKenna on diva divorcing Alesis. Can’t speak anymore.So just remains for me to say thank you to Matt and Liza for joining me today. It’s been a fantastic episode. I hope you’ll join us next time. Thank you!
Unknown Speaker 45:00
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