Sunday, 30 September 2007

YOU ARE THE WEAKEST LINK, GOODBYE


Today’s announcement that Anne Robinson is to divorce her husband of 27 years, will no doubt give rise to playground quips in the style of: “What did Anne Robinson say to her husband when they parted?”
Please don’t expect this blog to sink so low as to give you the punchline.

Friday, 28 September 2007

A MAN'S BEST FRIEND IS HIS DOG


A man’s best friend is his dog and his wife’s too, or so it seems in some divorce cases.

Once upon a time I was acting for a very intelligent lady: from memory I recall that she was a chartered accountant who continued in occupation of the marital home, a large house in the country. Her husband, whom I assume to have been equally talented, had left and was occupying a flat in the city. During their 10 year marriage they had acquired a somewhat lively golden labrador by the name of Bonzo. In the absence of any children, Bonzo had been clearly treated as a child substitute. He had a special place in both of their hearts, to the extent that upon separation they agreed to share his care. The correspondence in which I became involved went along the lines of:

In future could you please ensure that Bonzo is returned with the same collar and lead as he had when he went to your client?

It is becoming apparent from the state of his fur that, whilst in your client’s care, Bonzo is not being fed the premium dog food to which he is accustomed and it is understood that he may even have been given titbits from the table

Bonzo is a highly strung animal and does not take lightly to strangers, please therefore ensure that he is not introduced and on no account left alone with your client’s new partner.

During contact with your client it is evident that Bonzo is being over stimulated to the extent that when he returns to our client’s home he does not settle down in his basket in the kitchen but insists on sleeping on our client’s bed suggesting that your client may have erred in sticking to the strict rules agreed for his upbringing.

Last week your client failed to advise our client of her intention to take Bonzo to Scotland. It is important that our client is aware of Bonzo’s whereabouts at all times.

If your client insists on walking Bonzo close to traffic, then he must be vigilant in watching him and ensure that he keeps a tight hold of his lead. Reports that he was seen playing chicken with motor vehicles on the nearby dual carriageway on Sunday are most distressing.

Our client has invested in an insurance policy for Bonzo protecting against vet’s fees. Please ensure that your client pays half.

So it went on..

I like to believe that Bonzo matured into a gentle animal with a special spot before two fireplaces, but I’m not too sure.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

CHELSEA AND MOURINHO SEPARATE


Originally uploaded by Free-ers

The English football season always deluges us with high profile divorces. The one that won’t go away at the moment is happening down at Stamford Bridge where Mrs Chelsea has evicted Mr Jose Mourinho and given him a multi million pound pay-off too, if the press reports can be believed. Of course, no female bystander can understand how any woman would want to dump a gorgeous looking man like Jose. Also it seems that the young lads (a devoted and supportive family who are noted for the blue shirts they all wear) aren’t too happy either. Apparently some of them have taken to standing outside on the terraces wailing for Mr Mourinho by name. I assume Mrs Chelsea realised the pain she would cause to those close to her, as well as her own purse, before she took this dire step and must, therefore, have had her reasons.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

MONTEZUMA'S REVENGE


picture originally uploaded by
rosenbeans


Last night I ate hot spicy food with friends. I can assure you that I have suffered no after effects, and certainly nothing of the nature of Montezuma’s Revenge.

Revenge is an emotive word, charged with anger and irrational energy. Sadly, when marriages breakdown people lose control as the desire for vengeance reigns supreme. Hence wives really do slash their husbands’ clothes; husbands really do post unsavoury offerings through their wives’ letterboxes; both sexes really do make telephone calls to third parties aiming to hurt their other half but succeeding also in involving more people in the hurt and misery they are suffering.

Spare a thought for the poor solicitors in the middle. They do genuinely try to bring a sense of calm to the situation but when their client is a loose cannon their task is often a hopeless one.

Needless to say the aggressor eventually runs out of steam and generally feels quite shamed-faced, whilst the object of the aggression emerges morally victorious despite whatever philandering or dastardly deed brought on the attack in the first place.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

THE TURN OF THE SCREW


I should like to share with you extracts from this month’s Reading Group book :

“…Relief arrived. I call it relief though it was only the relief that a snap brings to a strain or the burst of a thunderstorm to a day of suffocation. It was at least change, and it came with a rush.

….I came straight out of the churchyard and, thinking hard, retraced my steps through the park. It seemed to me that by the time I reached the house I had made up my mind to cynical flight. The Sunday stillness of both the approaches and of the interior, in which I met no one, fairly stirred me with a sense of opportunity. Were I to get off quickly this way I should get off without a scene, without a word. My quickness would have to be remarkable, however….Tormented in the hall, with difficulties and obstacles, I remember sinking down to the foot of the staircase – suddenly collapsing there on the lowest step and then, with a revulsion, recalling that it was exactly where, more than a month before, in the darkness of the night…I had seen the spectre of the most horrible of women. At this I was able to straighten myself; I went the rest of the way up; I made in my turmoil, for the…room where there were objects belonging to me that I should have to take. But I opened the door to find again, in a flash, my eyes unsealed. In the presence of what I saw I reeled straight back upon my resistance.

Seated at my own table in the clear noonday light I saw a person whom, without my previous experience, I should have taken at the first blush for some housemaid… She rose, not as if she had heard me but with a grand melancholy of indifference and detachment, …I had the extraordinary chill of a feeling that it was I who was the intruder. It was as a wild protest against it that, actually addressing her –“You terrible miserable woman”- I heard myself break into a sound that by the open door, rang through the long passage and the empty house...”

The book is, of course, Henry James’ classic ghost story, “The Turn of the Screw”. I can’t help speculating that if he were still alive and writing today, he could well host a divorce blog.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

SEPARATED FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN

Originally uploaded by janandersen_dk

People are beginning to feel that they can start to ask questions about the decision to sever ties with the Ex. Almost without exception, and following on from my outburst about the Silly Filly, they want to know what caused the break up between us. I’ve got nothing to hide so you might as well hear the reasons too. Of course, you’ll have heard the expression staying together for the sake of the children; in my case, however, we separated in their best interests.

Whilst I’d begun to get bored with the monotony of it all, it was the continuous complaints from the kids that drove me to it. The Ex had seriously got to the point where he couldn’t cope with more than one of them at a time and bringing their friends round was a complete no.

Looking back the problem was there from the outset of our relationship. Four years before though when we first met, the children were smaller and we all seemed set for a great life together. Moreover we did enjoy ourselves for a time, but then everyone suddenly seemed to get very large and headroom in the back had a 5 foot limit.

The solution seemed simple: trade him in for a new model; something more suited for me, the children, and their friends, now we’ve either grown in size or maturity. I spotted Dom on a visit to the garage forecourt one day and the rest is history, as we say.


Click here for previous instalment

Friday, 21 September 2007

SEVEN YEAR ITCH


Originally uploaded by Accidental Hedonist
In her quest to become the new leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union Party, Gabriele Pauli has given a press conference in which she claims to have a solution for “the seven year itch”. She is apparently proposing that marriages should have a shelf life of seven years only, unless they take place in Church where “till death us do part” should still apply.

At first glance this does not sound like a policy likely to attract votes from divorce lawyers. However, trying to think through the ramifications in a society where like ours the divorce rate hits approximately 1 in 3 marriages, is engaging. Imagine the consequences if all change after seven years became the norm.
Children would be shifted from extended family to extended family with all kinds of half and full blood relations. A couple who wanted to stay together might go through the motions anyway to redistribute capital between them before signing up to a new pre nuptial agreement and then proceeding with the whole marriage thing again. There would also be a risk of increasing domestic dispute or even blackmail as the seventh anniversary approaches “If you don’t get that tiling in the bathroom finished, quit all those nasty hobbies and take me on the holiday of a lifetime, I won’t be signing on the dotted line and you won’t be getting any more of my apple crumble for dessert.”

What would happen to those people at the receiving end of a spouse who itches after three years instead of seven? Would there be any point in marriage at all?

Gosh I reckon there’s only one thing certain, the lawyers would remain in business after all.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

NEST EGG PROTECTION


The long queues at Northern Rock branches this week are worthy of comment. What is it that makes people panic about money even when they are given assurances by the Government that their funds are safe? Discounting the potential for a lack of belief in politicians’ promises, or the English phenomenon of joining queues because we appear to like standing in line, I think it’s something much more deep rooted. Money equates to security and we all need to know that our little nest eggs are safe

Inevitably in divorce cases panic arises in relation to money. Some clients deal with this by rushing to the bank and withdrawing everything; others seek to transfer it into the account of a close friend or relative, sometimes fabricating a debt or other apparently legitimate reason for the transaction. The trouble is that there is always a paper trail showing the movement of funds and this inevitably leads to some embarrassing or convoluted explanations.

Once upon a time I acted for a client. On the day his wife left him citing grounds for divorce that included his meanness towards her, he withdrew a substantial sum of money representing a quarter of his life savings from the bank, and donated it to a local charity in which his mother was an active fundraiser. Subsequently, in court, the Judge congratulated him on his altruistic nature but held that, as he could clearly afford to be generous and had no need for funds of this amount, he should give his wife an equivalent quarter and the remaining half should be divided equally between them!



Monday, 17 September 2007

BLIND DATE


I have been on a blind date this evening. It was approached in the right manner and we had a delightful rendezvous at a local pub where we spent a couple of hours getting to know one another. Mind it must be a sign of our ages because we started discussing ailments and health care!

The main concern if arranging such a meeting has to be safety and I suppose you could say that I took rather extreme precautions in being accompanied by Outdoor Man and the children! That was not surprising though as it was actually a first face to face with two third cousins whom I’ve met via the Internet whilst researching my family tree. They brought their families too.

It is amazing how many relationships are now struck up using the Internet. In this instance my intuition was right and my distant relatives turned out to be special people. Of course it might not always be the case and arrangements would not have been so casual if I’d been going along alone.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

ENDURING LOVE


“Enduring Love” is the title of a book by Ian McEwan who is one of my best loved authors. I find the contents of his books so very different and yet in their individual ways they are all compelling. “Atonement” (just released on film) has to be his most beautiful; “Saturday” is my personal favourite; “Amsterdam” inspires debate; the list goes on. “Enduring Love,” however, is the story of a man favoured by the attentions of a stranger which move from being co-incidence to stalking and harassment.

Frequently, when relationships breakdown, one party behaves in a manner that’s uncontrolled and unacceptable. Enduring love becomes endurance. It is not uncommon for me to have clients who are at the receiving end of repeated incidents of: nuisance telephone calls; offensive items being posted through letterboxes; threatening or abusive text messages; attempts to sabotage their working arrangements; the searching of their refuse bins; perpetual stalking.

A few years ago and by virtue of the Protection from Harassment Act the police were given clearer powers to deal with such matters and harassment became a criminal offence. When the intensity of emotion overheats, harassment can occur but at least, if it does, there is now a mechanism for easy intervention should the onslaught become enduring.

“Easy” and “enduring” are two adjectives my colleagues in our Private Law Department have been grappling with lately as the countdown to the new law on Lasting Powers of Attorney comes into force at the end of the month. The existing law is less bureaucratic and their message, which I’ll repeat here, is to activate an Enduring Power of Attorney now to avoid regulatory requirements later.

Friday, 14 September 2007

VIVE LA REVOLUTION


Once upon a time I saw a new client. He was an elderly gentleman, immaculately dressed and extraordinarily polite. He was, however, a little hard of hearing and I raised the level of my voice accordingly. Fifteen minutes into the appointment, he leaned forward and whispered “Now we have the formalities over, tell me about this revolution you’re a participant in.”

I was somewhat taken aback, but my brain moved into overdrive. Was this a KGB agent in front of me, perhaps looking to recruit, and does spying for Russia pay well and offer flexi time?

However, my idle speculation was cut dead by the next question as I struggled to stammer a response to the first. “How much do you charge for a public execution?”

I’m still not sure whether he was joking but it seemed he was suggesting that, whilst manning the barricades, I could perhaps secure the disposal of his wife in a slightly quicker way than the divorce court permits.

Needless to say I hastened to explain that the organisation I belonged to was Resolution and that he had clearly misheard the name. The guillotine plays no part in our
code of practice and instead he would find in me a solicitor looking to resolve matters without the need for acrimony. Maybe that wasn’t what he wanted or, as I prefer to think, my tactics worked superbly, for a few weeks later he and his wife were reconciled.


Wednesday, 12 September 2007

FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES


Childhood innocence can produce deeply profound yet innocent remarks. Little Girl is still of an age where she can do this. I would like to share an offering that she came up with today when she said:
“Mum when I grow up I wouldn’t mind being you, you know. You have a lovely daughter, an okay son and a lovely husband. Also, although your job is hard work and sometimes you get very stressed, it must be really good to get to know everyone’s secrets.”
So now I understand the motivation for my career choice

Monday, 10 September 2007

I SPOTTED THE EX IN TOWN

photo by Nettsu (terms of distribution- some rights reserved)

I spotted the Ex the other day. He was being driven around town by the Silly Filly. I swear that he looked greyer than I remember. I suppose that’s what happens when you cavort with someone half my age. He was also suffering from a nasty scrape on his offside. He certainly didn’t look too smug about that when he realised I’d noticed.

As for her, you’ll know the type. Legs the length of drainpipes with stiletto heels to match and a mini skirt to flaunt it all in. No, of course I’m not jealous.

Anyway the Ex looked perfectly ridiculous with those fluffy pink dice hanging from his rear view mirror and I’m certain it was Boyzone blaring from the CD player.

NO, I am definitely NOT jealous. Honestly! Look, I couldn’t care less. It was me who ditched him, remember. Besides I’m now in a new relationship too…

For previous instalments go to:
New partner

Sunday, 9 September 2007

AN EVENTFUL EVENING


I have spent this weekend afloat off the West Coast of Scotland. Last night we moored in Brodick Bay on the Isle of Arran and bobbing gently on the water settled down for the evening. At approximately 8pm, however, Outdoor Man who was in the process of serving up one of his wholesome bolognaise dishes suddenly exclaimed “ What’s that?”

We all looked out and what appeared to be a yacht going up in flames was clearly visible out at sea between Arran and the mainland. A Relay Mayday call had been made to the coastguard and some 5 yachts in the adjacent bay were lifting anchor to go to the rescue of anyone who might have escaped the fire into the water. We heard a passing submarine radio with a bearing and we discussed whether to stay put or offer assistance also. It was a horrific sight and the blaze which appeared to be some 3-5 miles distance was awesome. We decided to stay but continued to remain tuned into Channel 16 in case further help was required. One of the boats that had set off radioed in to say that they were within 2 miles of the blazing yacht and that it was burning “from stem to stern.” The next call however was from a boat that had just left Troon 10 minutes before, saying that as it had emerged from the harbour there had been a large explosion on shore further north and that this was the site of the fire, some 15 miles away from us. Confusion reigned as the lifeboat was being scrambled but then the coastguard confirmed that the fire was indeed onshore; there was no blazing yacht and everyone presumably returned to their anchorages.

Tucked up in my cabin later that night, I lay on my side in a semi recovery position listening to the water trickling by, being rocked gently and therapeutically to sleep. Whilst at ante natal classes years ago, I remember being told that rocking was a good way to encourage the release of endomorphins and so trigger the body’s natural pain relief mechanisms. I wondered whether or not it would be possible to replicate the experience at home; sitting sideways on a rocking chair in the bathroom maybe. An experiment for another day I yawned, as sleep took over.

Friday, 7 September 2007

PLAIN ENGLISH


“Hereuntobefore,” is there really such a word?
What about “Enclosed herewith”?
Seriously, such expressions must not be dismissed as legal jargon but rather examples of unacceptable lawyer-speak or should I say incomprehensible gobbledygook. What after all is wrong with good old plain English? Why can’t “Above” and “Attached” suffice? If I get frustrated by the use of ridiculous terminology how would clients feel if I wrote to them in such terms?
“Res ipsa loquitur.”

I rest my case, as we lawyers reputedly say!


Thursday, 6 September 2007

DIVORCE RATE TO INCREASE


Yesterday whilst I was posting my blog entry about the decrease in the divorce rate, the newspapers yielded two storylines suggesting the contrary, although this may not have been apparent at first glance. The relevant headlines were along the lines of :
“Interest rates squeeze family budgets as housing becomes unaffordable” and “Cost of a loaf of bread rises above £1.”

Sadly when families begin to struggle financially, pressure upon them increases, relationships become fraught and in due course the divorce rate rises. Hiding the surge in global wheat prices towards the back of newspapers in the business and economic sections does society no favours. It needs to know what is coming next.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

FALLING DIVORCE RATE


Figures published last week by the Office for National Statistics show provisional divorce rates in England and Wales at their lowest for 22 years. The figures show a drop in divorces to 12.2 per thousand married men and women, a fall of 7% compared to the 2005 figure of 13.1 per thousand.

According to Resolution, the figures highlight several key issues:

1. The need for cohabitation law reform

The downward trend in divorce rates mirrors falling marriage rates, which are currently at an all-time low and can be attributed - at least in part - to the growing number of people who are choosing to live together and not marry. The number of cohabiting couples in the UK is expected to rise from 2 million to 3.8 million by 2030, and at present six out of ten cohabiting couples believe they have the same rights as married people on separation.

The reality is very different. The present law provides no protection for couples that live together.

The uncertainty and lack of clarity cohabiting couples face means increased insecurity and distress at the time of break up, as well as injustice and high legal costs if couples go to court to resolve their differences. The costs involved in sorting out property rights of cohabiting couples can often exceed those of a fully contested divorce - precisely because there is so little clarity.

Resolution welcomed the recent Law Commission proposals for reforming cohabitation law, and is now pressing the government to move forward and introduce new legislation without delay.

2. The case for a ‘no fault’ divorce system

The figures refer to husbands’ ‘behaviour’ being cited in 54% of divorce cases and wives’ in 32%.This highlights the current fault-based divorce system, which we are keen to move away from. Currently, to divorce, couples need to give a reason for the marriage split. Often they cite “unreasonable behaviour” or adultery to speed up the process, but this can lead to bitter battles. In so many cases, it is impossible to say who is most to blame when a relationship ends.

Resolution would like to see a no-fault system, which gives couples the chance to look forward, rather than back, and agree best how to co-parent the children and how fairly to sort out the finances.

3. The importance of putting children first

The figures show that whilst divorce rates are falling, there are still 125,000 children caught up this difficult and highly emotional process. It’s vital that separating parents put children first. They may no longer be part of a couple, but they will always be a parent.

Alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation and collaborative law are becoming more and more popular. Resolution members aim to minimise the pain of separation and divorce and we are keen to explore options where couples can sit down with their own solicitors, all together in the same room, to work out resolutions, face-to-face. This makes for a more civilised divorce process, giving couples and families a better chance of rebuilding their lives.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

SOMETHING FOR NOTHING


When I did the weekly food shop yesterday, I had a pleasant surprise; with the use of a Nectar points card, it only came to £2! A trolley load of goodies for free! Except it wasn’t really. If I’ve learnt something from my years on this planet, it’s that you don’t get anything for nothing. What seemed like a free gift was only as a result of all the money I’ve previously spent in that same supermarket. Like everything in life you have to work hard; putting in, so that you can take out and sometimes, despite all the effort, you never manage to do so.

It set me thinking as I weeded the flower beds later; is there anything you ever truly get for free?

Outdoor Man answered that question for me as he threw me a compliment I felt I’d done nothing to earn.

“You’re looking blooming,” he remarked, as I came in through the back door.

“Thank you,” I blushed, before going upstairs where I coyly examined myself in the mirror. Reality dawned; half the flower garden was stuck in my hair!

Saturday, 1 September 2007

WHERE RHINOS FEAR TO PASS


Little Girl deserted us for Brownie Camp during our stay in the Lake District. In so doing, I lost my walking companion and had to look instead to Outdoor and Apprentice Men for support and kindred spirit.

It is a human weakness that we invariably hear what we want to hear, misinterpreting messages and signals relayed to us and in so doing ignore our instincts.

“We’re going to take you for some easy climbing beneath the Pike O’ Blisco,” they said. “We’ll carry the gear, but you can bring the provisions in your rucksack, and it’ll only be a short walk to the face because we’ll park on Wrynose Pass.”

I succumbed to human weakness and misinterpreted. Evocatively I conjured up the atmosphere of Rhinos’ Pass. Knowing that no such animals had ever stalked the mountains of Cumbria, I envisaged exciting stone formations at the head of what I understood to be a little used route from Langdale into Eskdale. With only a few foil-wrapped sandwiches on my back and the option to take photos rather than climb, the day would be a doddle, I assumed.

It was not to be. Wrynose Pass climbed steeply from Little Langdale in a series of brows and sharp bends. The road was on a 25% incline and so narrow that 2 rhinos would have struggled to pass and, of course, at every peak or elbow we met a vehicle coming in the opposite direction. 50 metres progress forward resulted in 10 metres back to a passing place with the accompanied agony of watching our car edge forward with only millimetres on either side between a drystone wall and the oncoming traffic. It was not a route for the faint hearted and, whilst I would like to think I began to cope with the angst created, in truth I arrived at the top a shaking shadow of my true self.

The view appeared magnificent but in genuine Boys’ Own Adventure style I was not permitted the time to appreciate it or recover. So Swiss Army penknife at the ready, I pulled my rucksack onto my back in anticipation that our destination was just around the corner. Strangely the sandwiches weighed much heavier than expected; something to do with high-energy cereal bars and bananas I discovered later. As for that short walk, yes it wasn’t so long but it was uphill, at Outdoor and Apprentice Men’s pace. Heart pounding and breathless, I reached the point where the climbing began.
Its name: BLACK Crag!