What can we learn from the Gates’ divorce announcement?

The announcement this week that Bill and Melinda Gates are to divorce after 27 years of marriage has made headlines globally. With an estimated combined worth of $130.5b, the couple’s separation looks set to be the most expensive in history, and may have lasting implications for the future of Microsoft and the extensive charity work undertaken by the Gates’ foundation. Whilst most of us will never experience anything close to the wealth this couple possesses, there are some general points we can all take away from the announcement.

‘Silver Splitters’

One trend that the Gates’ announcement has highlighted is the increase in couples aged 60 and over choosing to separate, which has been noted in both the UK and the USA. The Office for National Statistics reports that between 2005 and 2015, the number of male divorcees rose by 23 percent, and by 38 percent for women. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ONS also reports that remarriages for over 65s also rose dramatically between 2007 and 2017. This trend raises the importance of careful pension planning, and is likely to mean that solicitors are faced with more complex cases as a result of lengthier marriages ,where the prospect of a pension sharing order or other direction from the court looms large.

Knowing where you stand

The Gates’ divorce is likely to be extremely complex, owing to the vast sums involved and the length of the couple’s marriage.  If nothing else, the case will highlight the need for any party to a divorce to have a solid understanding of their own finances, their earning capacity now and in the future, and any other non-financial contributions they may have made to the marriage. Having this knowledge is important before entering into any financial negotiation with the ex-spouse, or in court proceedings should negotiations be unsuccessful.  Seeking advice as early as possible from an experienced solicitor is crucial to beginning the process on the right footing.

Burd Ward’s Family Law team offer a sensitive, thoughtful and comprehensive approach to matrimonial issues. They are happy to advise and represent clients in respect of divorce, finances, and any issues relating to children. Contact our team for more details.

Changes to personal injury from 31st May 2021

Road Traffice AccidentThe law and procedure of personal injury and in particular claims for ‘whiplash’ injuries caused in road traffic accidents will undergo a seismic change from the 31st May 2021. For accidents which occur after this date the vast majority of these claims will be dealt with by the injured person via the new small claims portal.




The Government have introduced a number of changes which will come into force from the 31st May 2021 which will alter the way personal injury claims are dealt with in a large number of cases. The major changes are as follows:

  1. The introduction of a new portal system for victims of road traffic accidents to process their claim. The new portal can be found here
  1. The introduction of a tariff based system, whereby the award that a claimant receives is determined by the length of the period of recovery of the accident related injuries (see table set out below).
  2. Increasing the small claims limit for such claims to £5,000 for personal injury, meaning any injuries worth less than this amount will not be costs bearing. This means that a large number of solicitors will no longer offer assistance in this area of law.

The detail for the procedure to follow for claimants can be found in “the RTA Small Claims Protocol”.


Who does this apply to?

The new system for ‘whiplash’ claims will apply to non-protected adults who suffer whiplash injuries whilst in a vehicle from the 31st May 2021.

The new system will not apply in the following situations:

  1. Your injury claim is over £5,000, or together with other protocol damages your claim is over £10,000.
  2. Your injuries do not fall within the definition of ‘whiplash’ (see below).
  3. You are a protected party. A protected party is one defined by the Pre-Action Protocol (see 4.3(g)) as a “party, or an intended party, who lacks capacity to conduct proceedings” (such as a child).
  4. You have a personal injury and you were not inside a vehicle, for instance on a motorbike or bicycle.
  5. You were a vulnerable road user at the time of the accident, for example a motorcyclist, pillion passenger, passenger in a sidecar attached to a motorcycle, wheelchair or powered wheelchair user, on a mobility scooter, on a bicycle or other pedal cycle, riding a horse or a pedestrian.
  6. Your claim is in respect of a breach of duty owed to a road user by a person who is not a road user.
  7. Your claim is against an untraced driver as defined by the Untraced Drivers’ Agreement 2017 or any subsequent or supplementary Untraced Drivers’ Agreements.


The Tariff

Set out below is the tariff system which will come into force from the 31st May 2021.

The first column represents the award for a physical injury alone and the second column represents the award for a physical injury accompanied by a minor psychological injury.


Compensation Table

Definition of ‘whiplash’

Only if a claimants injury falls within the definition of ‘whiplash’ will the new system be of relevance. If you suffer injuries outside of this definition then the old regime will apply and I would invite you to contact us for advice and assistance.

The Civil Liability Act 2018 defines whiplash as follows:

  • a sprain, strain, tear, rupture or lesser damage of a muscle, tendon or ligament in the neck, back or shoulder, or
  • an injury of soft tissue associated with a muscle, tendon or ligament in the neck, back or shoulder.

If you have been involved in a road traffic accident and feel that you fall outside the scope of the new regime then please contact one of our personal injury experts, Michael Ward or Matthew Barlow by email or call us on 0151 639 8273.