Thursday, 12 March 2015

Media Melt-Down



There’s nothing better than a good divorce story (except perhaps a fracas over the lack of a hot dinner) to put the media into melt-down. Yesterday was one of those days when the Supreme Court confirmed that Kath Wyatt is properly entitled to pursue a claim for financial provision against her ex-husband, Dale Vince, notwithstanding the fact that they are reported to have separated and then divorced some 30 and 23 years ago respectively.

Despite speculation in the press, she is, of course, unlikely to receive a substantial share of the millions, all accumulated by Mr Vince since their separation and, therefore, falling outside of the definition of matrimonial assets.

The case, however, serves as a salutary reminder of the importance of dealing with financial issues at the time of a divorce. Even when matters are amicable and a couple agrees that there are to be no further claims by either of them against the other, a consent order dismissing those claims is needed. I have known clients who have baulked at the additional cost of obtaining such but, as I have inevitably explained, it is like paying for an insurance policy. In so many cases the risk can even lie in the potential cost and aggravation of a subsequent claim rather than the outcome; far better, therefore, to tie up all loose ends and close the door with a clean break order where possible.

Of course, and as a result of this case, there may be some who will now potentially hedge their bets and prefer to leave the door ajar, ready to be pushed open should their ex ever reap a fortune. Woe betides them, however, if lady luck turns and it is they rather than their former half who accumulates that pot of gold.


Sunday, 22 February 2015

Spread



This month we have learned of the sad demise of Michele Ferrero, the Italian inventor of Nutella, the tasty chocolate spread that both Apprentice Man and Little Girl would always try to add to my supermarket trolley when they were young enough to find grocery shopping an adventure.

It has also been reported that a French court has refused to allow parents to name their daughter Nutella. Some might regard that as a victory for common sense; others as unwarranted interference by the state.

I was surprised to learn that a country which I have long associated with liberty should have a law that essentially restricts free choice in the naming of one’s child. Here in the UK our laws relating to the registration of births are far more liberal and generally only names deemed offensive would be prohibited.

However, it seems that fortunately most parents are sensible and the selection of offbeat names is reserved for the offspring of certain celebrities. So last year Sophia, Emma and Olivia topped the list of most popular girls’ names and there was not a Nutella, Marmite or Plum Jam in sight.


Imagine however the ambiguity that would arise were it ever to become common to designate sandwich fillings as children’s names. “Don’t forget Peanut Butter,” could have all manner of hidden consequences and were the idea of using spreads as names to catch on, it presumably would not be long before we would find both Wide and Bed in the front row of the Reception Class too.


Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Pub Landlord's Family Friendly Policies



It looks like we are gearing up for one of the longest election campaigns ever . However, news that Al Murray’s The Pub landlord will be contesting the South Thanet seat, as too will Nigel Farage, has certainly added some joviality to the proceedings and will no doubt continue to do so.

Clearly The Pub landlord  has been formulating  his policies for some time and I was delighted to learn that he does have some pro-family views. Indeed it was reported in The Guardian that he thinks it would be good for the country if everyone was obliged to turn off their internet connection from Friday evening until Monday morning to avoid “drunk tweeting” and “vengeful e-mails to the ex.”


Obviously I know that I am probably even more na├»ve than The Pub Landlord when it comes to politics, nevertheless I can’t help thinking:  what a good idea!


Friday, 16 January 2015

Pigeonhole Books


I was recently interviewed by Pigeonhole Books. It creates children’s books for 21st families. The stereotypical nuclear family is no longer necessarily the norm and the aim of these books is to introduce the different kinds of families that are becoming more and more common-place with a view to informing and breaking down barriers.

It is also seeking to create a resource for readers in search of bloggers who write about modern-day parenting  and features blogs that hone in on parenting after divorce, step parenting, co-parenting, same-sex parenting, blended families and multicultural/interracial families.

Its website may only be new but already it is well worth a visit.


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Rat Pack



Last week contractors undertook work to the field drains next door to us. In so doing they presumably disturbed the rats which must nest there, as this week the greenhouse at the bottom of our garden has been visited.

This in turn has given rise to a challenge for Outdoor Man to rid our premises of the rodents.

It was in language reminiscent of a description of the perpetrator of domestic violence that he referred to the stinking rats and vermin as he sought my opinion.

I had to confess that I did not think that the expertise I had acquired in obtaining ouster orders during my practising years would assist to any extent. It seems, however, that he was not considering an injunction and really wanted my view on the different types of rat poison.

Why ever would he think that a retired divorce solicitor would be an expert on toxic substances?


Sunday, 11 January 2015

The Sugar Plantation



Once upon a time, I recall a client referring to her husband’s behaviour towards her with the immortal words, “It ain’t no sugar rush when he rings.”

She was describing how he constantly monitored her movements using smartphone technology and repeatedly ringing her to make it clear that he knew where she was and required an account of what she was doing.

On our recent journey through Cuba, we visited the buildings on an old sugar plantation. There was a luxurious hacienda down the lane from a large foreboding bell-tower. The tower had been used to better watch the slaves working in the fields and the huge bell which hung from the top was rung to control their day.

Whilst  slavery in the plantations has long since been abolished, many the marriage that breaks up because one spouse feels that the other controls their every move. The bell at the top of the tower may no longer be rung, but for some it has simply been replaced by the ringing of a mobile phone


Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas Contests


It's that wonderful, sparkling time of the year when all are filled with peace and goodwill. Or are they?

I met one of my former colleagues for lunch at the end of last week. With only a few more court sittings before Christmas she was counting the number of cases that she still has to present and all of which, inevitably, related to contact over the holiday period.

What is it about Christmas that can turn separated parents into sparring warriors each competing to outdo the other? Sometimes such contests can be limited to the biggest present, the most chocolate, the tastiest dinner, the most exciting treat. Other times they spill over into contact wars where one parent tries to deny the children the right to see the other at this special time of the year.

Once upon a time I recall becoming embroiled in a battle over a trans-Atlantic holiday, or two to be precise. Each parent wanted to take their three small children to meet Mickey Mouse in the Californian sunshine during their Christmas holidays; the arrangements would have involved the children making the journey twice in two weeks, once with each parent. Unfortunately there was an overlap with the dates and a Judge put a stop to the whole charade of trying to keep up with the other if you can't outdo them.

The lengths that some parents go to try to establish the size of the other parent's tree, the presents they are giving and the timing of the Christmas meal would on occasions put the tactics of MI6 to shame. Careful subterfuge and spy-work, using the children as go-betweens and scanning social media websites for photographs or hints are just part of the arsenal of resources used to try to win this unnecessary war.

Intelligence Services may have blossomed with purpose during the Cold War but the communication that has followed since the fall of the Iron Curtain has been more productive. A polite telephone call instead of a drunken text, can reap far greater rewards in the parenting stakes; it's called communication and it's what children deserve to stop their Christmas and that of their parents being spoiled by petty rivalries.

Christmas is, after all, a time for peace and goodwill to all men, including the ex.



Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Monster-in-Law



I have just returned from Cuba. Our guide could hardly have been more knowledgeable and was generally able to answer all our questions. He explained that not only do Cubans invariably work in the place where they are brought up but they also continue to live with their parents even after marriage. Tradition dictates that daughters and their husbands live with her parents rather than his.

I enquired about divorce and was informed that, “It happens and there is lots of it, it’s the mother-in-law you see.”

In case I hadn’t understood the extent of the problem he then added, “In Cuba we call her the monster-in-law!”


Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Standardisation of English



I have been reading about life in Medieval England lately. In the course of so doing I understand much better the part the development of the printing press played in standardising the English language. How, for instance, “ye” became the the spelling for “the” and how the use of an abbreviation like “&” for “et” in the middle of a word was dropped.

Of course I went to school when rules on the use of the English language were tediously drummed into you and there was no scope for deviation. Any errors resulted in red lines in exercise books and the need to write out corrections ten times.

Recent generations of school pupils have been spared the pedantic insistence on subservience to the rules of spelling and grammar. However, in family proceedings the drafting of court documents, solicitors’ letters, laws and regulations all require the precise application of those rules. Occasionally, there can be a mismatch between what a lawyer thinks he has dictated and what he receives to check and sign.

In recent years, therefore, I have been treated to such gems as:
Baristas going into court (presumably to make coffee for the Judge);
Ships birthing (maybe that’s how baby boats are delivered);
Illicit information (when eliciting information was required);
Pecking knees (referring to a dog that sounded like a chicken with bandy legs perhaps).

My personal favourite of all time, however, was:
Higher perches (to finance the car not to provide a seat with a view for the budgerigar).


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Gone Girl



Both Little Girl and Apprentice Man have recommended that I read "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn. I confess that I have chickened out and have been to see the film, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, instead.

Of course the title "Gone Girl" could allude to any separated wife but in this case the plot is more sinister. I shall not divulge it here so as to spoil it for anyone who has yet to read the book or see the film. 

Suffice to say that my sympathies instinctively rested with the lawyer who goes under the wonderful name of Tanner Bolt. He also had one of the best lines in the script when he comments: "You two are the most f****d-up people I've ever met, and I deal with f****d-up people for a living"

Thankfully I never came out with that one during my years in practice.