Monday, 15 September 2014

A Painful Divorce


David Cameron described the potential outcome of a Yes vote in the Scottish referendum as a painful divorce rather than a trial separation today.

We have just returned from another sailing trip in Scotland and at the moment she is definitely going through a dilemma. Whilst there are some South of the border who think they should have a say too, the golden rule of every union (as any divorce lawyer can substantiate) is, of course, that it takes two to make it and one to break it. The decision is accordingly Scotland's alone.

If the Prime Minister must use separation and divorce as a metaphor, perhaps he ought to have been even more explicit: "Scotland, if you do decide to leave then don't think that, after a night consuming several drams of whisky, you can send a text message signed off with love and kisses saying you've made a mistake and want to come home."


Sunday, 31 August 2014

Six Inches Makes All the Difference



Research published by sociologists at New York University recently suggests that short men remain  married longer than their taller counterparts. Why on earth should that be? Surely there aren’t really thousands of women out there, patting their little husbands on the head whilst declaring undying and eternal love (well until the divorce that is, as the research finds the marriages last longer, not necessarily indefinitely).

Nope, the logical and rational explanation according to the researchers is that being short is seen to be less attractive, therefore short men marry later and presumably don’t make the same mistakes as those younger but taller than them! Wonderful, so now small men get picked up by desperate spinsters, ready to take and hang on to any man who’ll have them, even if it does mean ditching the stilettoes and wearing flat shoes for the rest of their married lives.

Just how ridiculous is this? There must be hundreds of thousands of both short and tall men out there that could debunk these findings. 


Saturday, 30 August 2014

A Lesson from Kerala



A few years ago we travelled as a family to Kerala, the spice garden of India, in the south of the country. It was a fascinating experience and although so many of our holidays include sunset dinners with a bottle of wine in the shadow of an ancient monument (no, I honestly mean the stone and mortar variety, not Outdoor Man), India was very different. We rode elephants, stayed on houseboats, were wary of monkeys in the trees above us and generally feasted out on a culture with sights, smells and customs very different to our own.

We were conscious that alcohol was available if you wanted it, but apart from an occasional bottle of beer, none of our party imbibed except, that is, for the guide who, even on our first night, returned to our dinner table smelling of spirits and somewhat more agitated and vocal than when he had left us.

That memory came back to me today when I read that Kerala attributes 69% of its crimes and 80% of its cases of divorce and domestic violence to alcohol. As a result it is looking to reduce alcohol consumption across the state by revoking licences for the sale of liquor and its aim is to be totally dry within a few years.

Alcohol is a contributory factor to many a divorce and violent episode here in the UK too. Surely there cannot be a divorce lawyer in the country who has not drafted a petition for divorce with those notorious words: “The Respondent drank to excess…”

There is a school of thought that suggests that alcohol exacerbates one’s natural temperament, emphasising the aggression in some and the soft and entertaining nature of others. So there are some who sing and dance on the table before falling asleep underneath it, and others who maliciously throw the table and chairs whilst trying to impose their will on those who are weaker than themselves. The person who is sweet and innocent when sober, can turn into a demon possessed when “under the influence”.

Before the UK would consider banning the sale of “booze”, however, it would inevitably consider other options. Indeed a minimum price tag seems to be the current political favourite. Might I, however, suggest an alternative, namely: the introduction of elephants in the streets and monkeys in the trees? Although it hasn’t worked in Kerala, were British drinkers to come face to face with an ape or woolly mammoth whilst binge drinking in the local town centre, they would surely think they had overindulged and it was time to make a quiet retreat to bed.


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

A Fictional Account


As news of Robin Williams’ sad demise broke today, I remembered first watching him in “Mork and Mindy”, that hilarious television sitcom from the late seventies/early eighties in which he played an alien who had come to Earth.

Subsequently, of course, it was his role in “Mrs Doubtfire” which most captured my imagination. Denied proper contact with his children, Daniel Hillard, Robin Williams’ character in that film, dressed as an elderly female and applied for and secured the position of nanny to his own children. In the world of comic fiction, anything can happen.

There are of course real-life cases where unacceptable behaviour by an absent parent causes a Judge to feel it necessary to refuse or restrict contact with children. In some instances limitations can result in contact between parent and child being curtailed to letters and cards, in others to supervised visits perhaps at an access centre or public place. Restrictions are never imposed without first working on the assumption that contact is in the best interests of the child and then balancing that against a need to protect.


A real life Daniel Hillard who has already had contact curtailed because of concerns about his ability to care for his children, is unlikely to cross dress, adopt a Scottish accent and new persona not to mention flaunt a previous court order and deceive his estranged wife into employing him as a nanny. No, instead he will be advised to work with the system to prove his ability and the merit of contact for the benefit of the children. There are flaws in the system, of course, and, like Daniel Hillard, there are some parents who are left feeling that injustice has been done. That however is the stuff of documentaries not comedy films.


Monday, 11 August 2014

Marriages Made in Heaven



News at the weekend included reference to the celebrations taking place to acknowledge that the twinning of Dull in Scotland with Boring in Oregon, USA has endured for a full year. The initial union and its continuation would suggest that where there are shared values and similarities, a meaningful relationship can grow. A marriage made in Heaven, we might say.


I do wonder, therefore, if instead the association had been between Dull and Carefree in Arizona or alternatively Happy Adventure in Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada whether it would have lasted. Whilst it is said that opposites attract, when they do, as most divorcees and their lawyers can vouch, they are also the relationships that can result in the bond from Hell. For instance would Carefree and Happy Adventure have really been as keen as Boring to indulge in 5 hours of folk singing and bagpipes to mark a first wedding anniversary? 


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Heat Wave



I have been fortunate in being able to spend last week's soaring temperatures fanned by sea breezes amongst Scotland's sea lochs. Anchoring close to shore, all was quiet and peaceful; even the most noisy of tourist had been overwhelmed into a languid torpor by the heat.

Whilst we might feel lethargic in an extreme heatwave the metaphors associated with domestic violence would suggest otherwise.

The perpetrator is inevitably a firebrand with a hot temper whose inflammatory abuse and boiling rage result in a steaming cauldron of burning anger and aggression. 

When the heat rises it isn't limited to air temperature.


Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Bite



There have been a number of times this summer when, for obvious reasons (ie biting flies) I have been reminded of the quote of Anita Roddick: “If you think you’re too small to have an impact; try going to bed with a mosquito.”

Divorce however is not like the minor irritation of a mosquito bite (malaria carrying insects excepted).

The biggest thing I have ever been bitten by was a pony. Divorce is not like a pony bite either.


No, divorce is where you are bitten by really big teeth (a crocodile, a lion or a shark – take your pick) and then spat out in pieces that fortunately can be sewn up and healed, although there will be scars that can remain forever.


Friday, 18 July 2014

In the News



Notwithstanding retirement, I do of course continue to take an interest in legal developments and cases especially those relating to divorce. In particular my attention was drawn last week to the newspaper reports on the hearing involving Mr and Mrs Hohn in what is being described as the UK’s wealthiest divorce case.

In the interests of transparency family cases have been opened up to enable attendance by accredited members of the Press. Their powers to report on the specific details of a case have, however, been very limited. When issuing a court application for a client I have, therefore, advised that, although proceedings are in private, the Press could be present but, reassuringly, that this is unlikely.

Save for those divorcees looking for a celebrity moment, many must have been extremely shocked by the High Court’s decision which has permitted everything to be reported except detailed financial information.  That said, one can probably assume that the Press will not, as a result, suddenly decide to attend every case where a financial order is sought; Mr and Mrs Hohn’s circumstances and wealth are somewhat exceptional.

For those who are genuinely concerned that their intimate details may be emblazoned across the Media are there any other options? Negotiation, arbitration, mediation and collaboration all spring to mind; differing levels of wealth or trust between parties making one process potentially more suitable than another. All, however, offer confidentiality, free from Press intrusion.


Perhaps a case like the Hohns’ is what has been required to encourage would-be litigants to examine all options with their solicitors, rather than embark on litigation other than as a last resort.


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Le Grand Depart (Yorkshire)



It is an established and by no means unsurprising phenomenon that alcohol and celebrations can be an explosive cocktail, sufficient to sever a marriage that is already floundering. It seems however that if you add sport into the mix, the situation can become lethal. Indeed according to this article in Canada’s National Post, the divorce rate spikes after the annual Calgary Stampede in July with its party atmosphere conducive to both the beginning and ending of marriages.

Last weekend I was at one of the biggest parties linked to sport that Yorkshire has ever seen when it hosted the start of Le Tour de France.  On Buttertubs Pass and back in Hawes, both before and after the race passed through, there was certainly a festive spirit.

After reading about the effect of the Stampede I do wonder whether there are any likely repercussions on domestic bliss in the Dales from the world’s biggest cycle race. After all sitting astride a bucking bronco can’t feel that different to being glued to a bicycle saddle for 5 hours, can it? 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Brutal




One of the good things about not going to work is being able to start the piles of unread books that seem to have entered my home over the last decade or more.

Literature, however, can be brutal. Take this poem by Rose Tremain in her short novel, “Letter to Sister Benedicta” :-

She’s gone to Milan
with her smart young man
leaving her furs
and all that was hers
including the very
pale man she called Gerry.