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‘ I’ve had clients sobbing hysterically when I said, “You have to file for divorce right now,”’ says family law heavyweight Mark Harper. He focuses on divorce, particularly international cases and those involving trusts, and pre-nuptial and pre-civil partnership agreements. He is speaking in the context of a post-Brexit Great Repeal Bill, which he hopes may end the so-called race to court which can arise between EU jurisdictions over divorce. However, Harper is not a Brexit optimist. Should the Brussels II regulations governing the ‘race to court’ be scrapped, Harper suspects an expensive ‘fight over where to fight about money’ might ensue. ‘That fight could take six to eight months, cost several hundred thousand pounds, and once that’s finished, assuming the court says you can continue the proceedings in London, you then have a fight about how the assets are divided,’ says the cross-border expert. Harper, who was at Withers for 15 years before joining Hughes Fowler Carruthers in 2014, says his strategy is in ‘understanding the psychology of the spouse on the other side. But how I run a case will also depend on which of my rivals is on the other side, because there are some who only respond to a clenched fist.’ He finds the dynamic of his profession ‘endlessly fascinating’. Surprising revelations can come even at the prenup stage. ‘I’ve had cases where the future husband has said to me, “She’s obviously in this for money, I’m not sure I want to go ahead.”’

Mark Harper