Thursday, 16 October 2014

Inequality


I am sure that I have referred before in this blog to divorce leaving one party (usually the husband) feeling that has had to pay too much to the other party (usually the wife) and who in turn feels that she has received too little.

English divorce law is based on a concept of fairness and although this is measured against a yardstick of equality it does not automatically mean that assets are divided equally. In other words an unequal division can and invariably will be a fair outcome for the divorcing couple.

How so?

In many relationships the household may have depended on one partner (frequently but not always the husband) to work long hours to earn the money that has provided the home and other essentials for the family. The other partner (often the wife) may have given up a career, reduced her hours or prospects of advancement in order to care for children and the home, as well perhaps as moving from place to place in order to accompany the husband as he moves up the corporate ladder.
Post-divorce, rarely therefore will the dependent spouse have the earning capacity of the primary breadwinner. Unless assets are redistributed in unequal shares there may be unfairness.

The bread maker’s earnings provide a mortgage capacity beyond that of his spouse and whilst maintenance may help to bridge the gap, an unequal division of the financial pot is invariably required as well or instead. The main earner will potentially have accrued a pension, denied to his spouse, and there may need to be a redistribution of this, or a cash payment in lieu, in order to achieve a fair outcome. If however the couple are in a position where the primary earner has a final salary pension and the spouse has access only to an open-market money purchase scheme, to achieve equality of pension benefits again an unequal division or a payment representing more than half of the cash equivalent value of the scheme could be required.

Depending from which perspective one is examining the proposed terms of settlement is it any wonder that both can feel aggrieved?

Many the men who believe that they are being denied a fair return on the effort they have put in and many too the women who believe that they are being inadequately compensated for all that they have given up.

Regardless however of the extent to which the law seeks to redress the inequality that exists, only one thing is certain: as time moves on and circumstances intervene, the means of the former husband and wife are unlikely ever to be equal.

#inequality #BAD2014




Friday, 3 October 2014

Warning Notice


Whilst out and about yesterday, I spotted interesting advice on a plaque:

“Don’t marry for money,” it read, “It costs less to borrow it!”

Maybe there's a new opportunity here for Wonga.



Thursday, 2 October 2014

Filling the Frame


So the good old tax disc has been abolished. That circular paper certificate that always came with perforations on a square sheet of paper, leaving you in a high state of anxiety every year as you fretted over whether or not you would be able to detach it without tearing right across it.

I wonder what, in this digital age, will go next? Could it be that strangely sized piece of green paper, known as a marriage certificate?

I can think of any number of people who might object to that. Even amongst divorcees they can be viewed as sentimental objects.

Over the years many the numbers of clients who have protested in horror when I have explained of the need to lodge the certificate at court with their divorce documents on a non-returnable basis. Strange as it may seem, you do have to prove you are married in order to divorce!

Fortunately, albeit for a small fee, a further official copy can be obtained and filed in court instead.

Once upon a time a client told me that she deserved to be able to retain the official certificate she was handed on the day she married, as proof of her willingness before witnesses to commit. I think she was serious when she said it was her wish to hang it and her final divorce decree in matching heart-shaped frames (which she'd never known what to do with) alongside each other on her hall wall.


Is there anyone intending to frame and hang their last tax disc? It could solve the problem of what to put in that attractive circular photo frame I've had in a cupboard for years.


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.