In June this year Mr Justice Bodey heard an application by the husband for an order to redact a statement of the wife which made reference to a meeting between the parties which the husband claimed was a without prejudice meeting.
The parties met over dinner at a restaurant, during which meeting the husband produced an agreement. The husband claimed that this was a without prejudice meeting and that in open proceedings, the wife should not be able to refer to statements made during the course of that meeting.
The wife’s position was that the meeting was just that of an unhappy couple discussing the marital difficulties over dinner.
The Court determined that there was no dispute, or no sufficient dispute and therefore rejected the husband’s application.
Were the Court to have found that there had been a dispute, or indeed a sufficient dispute, the Court would have had to consider whether it was clear from the surrounding circumstances that the parties were attempting to compromise the dispute.
The Court distinguished in attempts to settle a dispute from an attempt to impose a settlement and in this case in fact found that there was no dispute at the stage of the meeting, in which case it was not possible for the Court to agree that such a meeting could be without prejudice.
What is important to remember from this case is that whilst it is often of great benefit to the parties to sit down and work out their differences, whether it be with a view to reconciling or indeed with a view to separating, it can be very important to the parties to have sort some form of legal advice as to the context of any negotiations and discussions, and as to the implications of those discussions or indeed any admissions made during those conversations.
Resolution (formerly the Solicitors’ Family Law Association) members will also seek to support consoliatory approaches between the parties, and will always do their utmost to preserve and encourage such levels of cooperation that already exist between the parties. It is however often crucial that parties to a possible marital breakdown do seek independent legal advice from a specialist family law solicitor at an early stage.
If you wish to speak in confidence to Melanie or Tanya, please telephone us on 01992 892214.