Divorcing couples tend to row over seemingly trivial items, lawyers have revealed
The petty disputes were revealed after research by Manchester law firm Pannone found one in five divorces feature rows over inexpensive possessions.
Even seven-figure separations can be delayed because of disputes about ownership of items worth no more than just a few pounds, they found.
The resulting disputes are so bitter that they end up inflating legal bills far beyond what it would cost to buy replacements, the lawyers said.
Among the most bizarre cases was the unnamed husband who took his emotional attachment to a favourite frying pan to ludicrous extremes.
“His wife took it when she moved out, so he took her engagement ring in a bid to get revenge,” the Daily Mail quoted David Milburn, his lawyer, of Stowe Family Law, as saying.
“When everything was resolved, they had to meet each other halfway between their new properties at a motorway service station to exchange the items,” he said.
Another of his clients had asked for help to win custody of delicacies her ex-husband had taken from the kitchen of the marital home.
“I’ve also been instructed by a client to write to her former spouse to return some smoked salmon and expensive mustard he had taken out of the freezer,” Milburn revealed.
“I explained that the legal fees in pursuing this would buy her a lot of smoked salmon, but she was adamant we pressed ahead anyway,” he said.
Family partner Fiona Wood said some ex-husbands and wives are prepared to run up significant legal bills to win ‘custody’ of seemingly trivial items such as CDs, books, cutlery, Air Miles, Tesco Clubcard points, goldfish and vacuum cleaners.
“Some couples fight simply for the sake of fighting,” she said.
“The amount spent on legal costs arguing about these items can be many times more than their value, but some would rather pay these costs in order to prove a point to their ex-spouses,” she said.
Other possessions fought over by couples have included a suit of armour in a baronial hall, dustbins in the shape of Disney characters, and sporting trophies.
In many cases, the only winners are the lawyers.
Amanda McAlister, head of family law at Russell Jones & Walker, handled a divorce involving a couple who ran an equestrian centre and jointly owned a valuable stallion.
The entire financial settlement came down to the division of horse semen.
“You’d be surprised at how couples, who can split pretty sizeable assets without much problem, are willing to waste thousands of pounds on the smallest or oddest possession,” she said.
“The key is to keep a cool head and look on it as a business deal.
“Unfortunately, few people do, and it can become a battle for ownership over items that, in the great scheme of things, are pretty unimportant when compared with your financial security and the welfare of your children,” she said.
“I have seen couples divide multi-million pound fortunes with comparative ease, only for negotiations to founder over a cherished but ultimately worthless ornament,” Beth Wilkins, a partner and joint head of family law at JMW Solicitors, said.