Family lawyer says ‘poker effect’ is making divorces less fair

A family lawyer has told the Telegraph newspapers that the ‘poker effect’ is causing the financially weaker party in a divorce to fold early and accept unfair settlement offers to avoid the high costs associated with contested divorces.

The Telegraph interviewed Paul Hunt, a solicitor at firm Kirwans who has many years experience in family law and divorce law in particular, and who believes that the rising cost of divorce has made the process less fair.

Last year the UK government scrapped legal aid for almost all divorce cases, putting an end to state-sponsored legal representation for most divorcing couples.

The result is that divorce disputes now cost the individuals themselves, and this has led to something called the ‘poker effect’, where the weaker party in the divorce effectively ‘folds’ their hand to avoid expensive litigation further down the line.

Although the poker effect may lead to a faster settlement, it often also means that the financially stronger party is able to dictate the terms of the divorce, and as this is often the man in the relationship, the new situation is widely being viewed as being unfair to women.

“Couples are more cost conscious and the withdrawal of legal aid for the majority of divorces since April 2013 has inevitably seen a reduction in protracted state funded disputes about children or finances” Mr Hunt told the Telegraph.

“Unfortunately, those with shallower pockets may feel pressured to fold early to avoid rising costs and reach a quick divorce settlement that is not necessarily in their best interest” he added.

Often the expensive part of any divorce is the disputes over areas where the couple cannot find agreement. Although mediation has been designed to help couples find answers in these situations, the service is often less effective for parties who simply cannot agree on a particular issue.

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