They Started To Fight When The Money Got Tight

The value of Sandy and Rob’s house is falling. The prospect of acquiring one let alone two alternative homes is fast evaporating. Rob fears that, along with the marriage, he may lose his job and with it his mortgage capacity. Sandy hasn’t worked in ten years and the cost of child care worries her.

Breaking up is hard at the best of times but it can get even tougher when money gets tight. There are few things that affect a relationship more than financial worries. Couples strained by disagreements over who should pay the bills or how to keep on top of debt, find it more difficult to ignore their differences and the troubles that surround them. When money starts running out and reality must be faced, accusations start flying and marriages can fall apart.

“They started to fight when the money got tight, and they just didn’t count on the tears” are lyrics from the song “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” by Billy Joel in his 1977 album “The Stranger”. But must it always end in tears? Must differences over scarce and limited financial resources be determined by divorce court room battles?

Not always. Sandy and Rob, along with other separating and divorcing couples are discovering in Bath, England and elsewhere in the UK, that there are lawyers and other experts with specialist knowledge and experience of divorce, who can offer them less destructive methods of divorce.

Choosing the right method in the beginning could save separating and divorcing couples time, money and tears in the long term.

One such method is Collaborative Practice.

  • It helps couples to create their own individualised solutions to their issues instead of the restricted range of outcomes available in the divorce court system.
  • It encourages couples to use their intelligence and energy toward creative problem solving rather than toward recriminations or revenge – fixing the problem rather than fixing the blame.
  • It keeps control of decisions about restructuring financial and child rearing arrangements in the hands of the couple and not the Judge.
  • It places a premium on the welfare of children and protects them from the harm associated with litigated disputes between parents.
Sandy and Rob, in meetings with their collaborative lawyers, worked through their fears and emerged with a divorce settlement that would work for them and their family. The collaborative professionals helped them to focus on settling their needs and interests, instead of pursuing their rights and entitlements.

Billy Joel continues his song “….they got a divorce as a matter of course and they parted the closest of friends”. That ideal may not always be possible but how a couple chooses to divorce will impact them and their children for years to come. My practice, at Sharp Family Law, is dedicated to helping couples like Sandy and Rob find creative solutions to their financial circumstances, crafted by them and not the divorce courts.


Richard Sharp

After 15 years as a Partner in a top UK 100 Law Firm, Richard Sharp founded Sharp Family law to provide a family law firm devoted to the practice of appropriate dispute resolution and interest based negotiation processes. MORE >

Featured Mediators

View all

Read these next


Using Mediation to Develop a Prenup that Satisfies Both Parties

My last mediation of 2020 was for a prenuptial agreement, and to me it was kind of a sign of hope for the year to come. The couple had given...

By Roseann Vanella

The Strategic Use of Art in Problem Solving

Natura in reticulum sua genera connexit, Non in catenam: hominess non possunt nisi Catenam sequi, cum non plura simul Possint sermone exponere. Nature knits up her kinds in a network,...

By Robert Benjamin

Into the Mediator’s Gray Zone

Photos and Drawing by Dick Harris, circa 1966 and 1967. Like other mediators and arbitrators, I work in the gray zone of human affairs, the interstitial area between hard positions,...

By Peter Adler

Find a Mediator