Wednesday, 31 October 2007
Tuesday, 30 October 2007
Recently I referred to President Sarkozy’s divorce. It seems that it made the headlines again yesterday when the President lost his temper with Lesley Stahl, a CBS American Network presenter, and walked off the set whilst she was interviewing him. She had of course sought to question him about the breakdown of his marriage. Bearing in mind that I make a living out of quizzing people about this kind of thing, I would like to offer the hapless presenter a few tips:
- Don’t break the ice with anyone you meet for the first time by asking after their ex;
- Appreciate that an interview of this nature is very sensitive and not everyone can open up easily to talk about personal matters;
- Don’t try to film or record the content of the interview; this is difficult for a TV presenter but it is vital unless the interviewee is a self publicist;
- Assure them that everything they tell you is confidential (another difficult one when trying to put together a TV show);
- Have a box of tissues handy just in case;
- Let them tell their story in their own words and time;
- Listen, listen and listen again;
- Understand that people don’t always enunciate through words what they want you to hear;
- Don’t misinterpret or put words into the interviewee’s mouth;
- Empathise and tell them how you can help.
Monday, 29 October 2007
Whilst at Primary School, Little Girl regularly came home with a copy of a health letter warning about yet another outbreak of head lice. It was always dressed up nicely, pointing out that these awful creatures revel on nice clean heads but, to stem the ever increasing number of outbreaks, every parent’s help was needed to check their children’s hair and take steps to eradicate the itch-creating monsters if found. Of course, as any member of the previous generation will tell you, it wasn’t like that in their day when Nitty Nora patrolled the school corridors and periodically you were made to line up outside her room to have your head inspected one by one. In the absence of inspections by the school nurse, it seems that the head louse population is flourishing and whilst there are many parents clamouring for the return of the old system, my experience from talking to teachers is that they can spot an infestation as soon as it starts, simply from the scratching that goes on in the classroom. I have to say that just blogging about it causes me to itch all over.
So what has all this got to do with divorce? Well to be honest not a great deal, save that I was reminded of the itch caused when reading the weekend’s newspapers. It seems that research in the USA, Russia and Scandinavia has suggested that the infamous 7 year itch in a marriage in fact now happens after only 5 years, in these our modern times.
It’s a little like head lice I suppose in that we are all so busy that life has speeded up to the point where not as much time is spent on checking our children’s scalps as it used to be. Likewise in a relationship, once the honeymoon period is over, many turn elsewhere to be scratched. Who knows, as life continues to step up apace, will the honeymoon period be simply a fortnight in a 4 star hotel on Gran Canaria followed by the ubiquitous fortnight itch?
The trend may even have started for, once upon a time, I was involved in divorcing a couple who both suffered from a 45 minute itch when the bride departed from the wedding reception with the best man, whilst the groom was found in a broom cupboard with one of the bridesmaids. It had the benefit of giving the guests a wedding to remember coupled with the opportunity to take home their wedding presents. This made the subsequent financial proceedings relatively easy as there was nothing left to divide between the happy couple.
Thursday, 25 October 2007
Wednesday, 24 October 2007
Originally uploaded by Heidenseek
Monday, 22 October 2007
The trouble is exotic holidays generally mean that you are very much alone with your travelling companion, and I’m told the Orient Express has quite confined sleeping compartments. You have to have a good relationship in the first place to survive such an experience, and if you don’t that credit card bill becomes a bug bear in the subsequent financial arrangements and divorce proceedings.
Outdoor Man tells me that we’d get along just fine travelling across Europe by sleeper train because he’d go to the bar. Based on the number of times he emptied his glass at the ball, I think he’s in training already!
Sunday, 21 October 2007
When dividing family assets, Judges have discretionary powers which means that guessing the outcome can be interpreted as a stab in the dark. Of course, that’s not really the case. Despite most lawyers’ pedantic insistence on thinking in straight lines and applying pure logic to resolve irrational dilemmas, the family lawyer has elevated such thought processes to another plane where experience, legal knowledge, psychology and human dynamics all intermingle. Hence advising a client on the likely outcome of a court application has to be an art rather than a science.
Apprentice Man has opted to stick with the sciences. I do not believe that he has any intention of becoming a family lawyer.
Saturday, 20 October 2007
We often hear about couples marrying in secret but divorce is generally harder to hide. The announcement this week, therefore, that not only had President Sarkozy of France separated from his wife but that they had also divorced, certainly appears to have been something of a surprise, despite repeated reports of a rift in their marriage.
As one might expect, a nation famed for its romantic side and apparently unfazed by a previous President with a love child and another who died in the arms of his lover, is apparently less happy at the notion of divorce which it seems is a first for a modern French President. Whilst it could just be political opportunism, opponents are reported to be muttering that this could affect his psychological stability and, therefore, more than his personal life.
Indeed Nicholas Sarkozy might be well advised to consider his nation’s history books, and in particular the events leading to the founding of modern France, paying heed to the experience of its first Emperor. I seem to recall that Napoleon divorced Josephine in 1810 only to be the subject of a resounding beating by the British at the Battle of Waterloo, five years later. What’s that oft repeated phrase? “History has a habit of repeating itself.”
Wednesday, 17 October 2007
“Divorce is hell” was the comment from Sir Paul McCartney reported by the media this week. To make headline news, I must assume that this was previously an unknown fact although I find that rather startling. Isn’t it well documented that alongside bereavement, divorce is one of the most stressful episodes of life from which we can suffer?
Monday, 15 October 2007
Today I understand is a Blog Action Day when we are all required to blog about environmental issues. Not an easy one when your passions are divorce and people, although the latter apparently are currently being held to account for an evil force called Climate Change that is attacking the planet.
Forget that, I thought I’d continue instead my theme from the last couple of days about forging friendships and networking. I’m not sure to what extent such activities are carbon neutral, so shan’t ponder on that line either.
Networking events produce relationships: people buy people; you put faces to names. It’s an effective way to meet and I understand that similar principles apply to Singles’ Clubs. Reality is suspended; strangers expect that you will talk to them because that is why they are there. Techniques that can’t be applied at the bus stop, (or swimming pool ) are allowed. With a good group of people and/or an effective host, the ice melts quicker than from global warming.
Sunday, 14 October 2007
I’m told that it is a bit like speed dating where you have to make a big impression, very quickly. The technique, of course, is to try to ensure that whoever you talk to is going to remember your name, what you do and maybe even ask for your telephone number. Hence on such occasions I am told that it is simply not acceptable to be Judith Middleton, divorce lawyer. Instead it’s: “Hello, I’m Judith, (pause), Judith (emphasis), Middleton. I’m involved in relationship breakdown, (another pause), and you?”
You can see why people prefer the virtual reality of cyber space; it’s more natural!
Saturday, 13 October 2007
I was reminded of this on holiday over the summer. Little Girl, splashing in the hotel pool alone, was asked exactly that question by another girl of similar age and consequently the two quickly became a pair for the rest of the holiday. It was simply done, in a matter of seconds.
It’s harder as an adult. Let’s face it, approaching a complete stranger in a swimming pool or wherever and asking if they’ll be your friend could lead very quickly to you being dismissed as mentally unstable and shunned. Yet the process of forging friendships in later life is substantially the same, even if it requires more time and subtlety. We still need to be outward going, altruistic and/or team up for a project or activity; always ready to offer the invite at the appropriate point, conscious that the recipient is probably as reserved as we are, if not more so.
Hence the growing popularity of, for instance, salsa and belly dancing classes where you can have a giggle with complete strangers and break down the barriers which otherwise prevent us from getting to know each other.
Wednesday, 10 October 2007
Lawyers are often accused of being parasitic in nature, there always being a need for one when life goes wrong, be it at a time of personal injury, divorce or death. The only other thing you can be sure of is that the Taxman is never far behind; clawing back income tax on specific types of compensation payments, collecting inheritance tax on death and of course rubbing his hands in glee when family assets are realised in divorce proceedings with the potential for a capital gain and yet more tax.
Am I just being cynical or was yesterday’s announcement by the Chancellor a big con? Is a flat rate of Capital Gains Tax at 18% with no indexation or taper relief really just a means to simplify matters (so that solicitors can undertake the calculation and give the client the bad news before the Inland Revenue)? Does nobody else out there think it could be a tax on inflation? Isn’t that immoral when it’s invariably government policy that causes inflation in the first place? Did the Chancellor consider the effect on divorcing couples and their need to realise often long-held assets immediately to create two homes, with little scope to stagger the sale of shares, businesses or second homes over two or more tax years? I bet he didn’t. Why doesn’t he just bring back the Window and Hearth Taxes; at least that way I could advise clients to go and live in potting sheds?
Tuesday, 9 October 2007
It’s a bit like blogging where individuality comes to the fore. I was reminded of this when reading other lawyers’ divorce blogs which I stress bear no resemblance whatsoever to my humble offerings, nor indeed to each other. For instance Bloody Relations by Jacqui Gilliatt is an absolute Aladdin’s Cave of links and I defy anyone to visit her page and then fail to find themselves clicking to follow the trail she sets you on. In contrast John Bolch at Family Lore has to be commended for his ability to comment on changes in law and practice on an almost daily basis. Jo Spain offers informative and helpful explanations on the law itself whilst Divorce Solicitor is a gem of hilarious if not useful ideas. Wikivorce hosts blogs from those currently going through the process and I’m confident that regardless of how many divorce blogs you come across each will have its own unique angle.
Monday, 8 October 2007
Saturday, 6 October 2007
Thursday, 4 October 2007
Communication, however, remains the mainstay of our lives and on which all relationships depend. The handwritten letter, though, is very much in the descendency (little love notes tied up with red string and a miniature rose are surely passé), but the need to keep in contact is as important as ever. Hence whilst the desire to put pen to paper has diminished, the use of the mobile phone for text and conversing has increased, making it ever easy to stay in touch even when miles apart, away from home for weeks or even months. Indeed, the failure to answer a mobile call; answering one against the background of nightclub music when you are supposed to be on a business engagement; receiving a call from a member of the opposite sex in the presence of your spouse; can all be tell tale signs of relationship breakdown. Text messages can give an even worse signal, and if your partner cunningly grabs your phone only to read amorous offerings from your supposed work colleague at the next desk, that is invariably the end.
It was never this way with the post, or maybe it was, but life was slower, communication more formal, and the agony equally as excruciating. Waiting patiently for a letter to arrive, blaming the postman for days and then ripping open the envelope as it finally dropped on the mat, only to read those two heart rending words, “Dear John…”