Monday, 31 March 2008

LOOKING AFTER NUMBER ONE


Whilst skiing last week, Outdoor Man and I separated. It was the usual thing; he and Little Girl flew down the slope so fast that they skied right past the lift we were taking. Now I may be slow but that does not mean that I am stupid. Hence, I hopped on the lift, motioning to them as I drifted overhead that I’d see them at the top. They had a long detour to make and an extra lift, so it meant that I had a solitary 40 minutes to pass as best I could.

I headed for the terrace of a conveniently situated restaurant. With sunshine on my face, a gluhwein to indulge in and all around the majestic scenery of the mountain tops, it was a most satisfying interlude.

When you are all alone, it is, of course, vital that you look after yourself.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

READING MATERIAL


Generally I like to read a book before I recommend it to anyone, but I can’t resist pointing you in the direction of “If You Want Closure In Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs: A Guide To Understanding Men,” by Big Boom. Apparently it has just won first prize in a poll for the oddest book title of the year, leaving “I Was Tortured By The Pygmy Love Queen,” by Jasper Mc Cutcheon in second place. Click here for more details.

I have checked them both out at Amazon but curiously as yet nobody has rated, reviewed or even admitted to reading them.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

LIKE MINDS


There are various factors which contribute to a successful marriage and without which a relationship can break down. In my own case, those factors include sharing the same ideals and principles as Outdoor Man. Indeed two things on which we both agree is that we do not go on holiday to save money or to diet.

So it is that we have returned from Switzerland today with empty wallets and wondering how long we can go eating only lettuce leaves.

Friday, 21 March 2008

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST




The touring production of Beauty and the Beast is being performed in Darlington this week, so Little Girl and I treated ourselves to a night at the theatre yesterday evening to see it. The title alone could of course, be misconstrued as a nasty divorce case. As everyone will know, the storyline concentrates on not judging by appearances and there being good things inside ugly packages. Mind I couldn’t help wondering if it really did all end happily. Arrogant, selfish Prince, becomes angry selfish Beast, becomes good-looking inevitably still selfish Prince.

“And they both lived happily ever after” is maybe the biggest fairy story of all!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

THE ENDOWMENT OF WORLDLY GOODS


Clients invariably bemoan the fact that upon divorce the spoils of their years of labour must be divided equally with their spouse.

Marriage of course is a relationship where assets and possessions are shared. I was reminded of this tonight when I was unable to access my computer because Apprentice Man had coursework to complete before tomorrow’s deadline. Then I discovered that I couldn’t make a telephone call because Little Girl decided to chat to a friend for half an hour. Further, just when I thought I’d console myself with one of those chocolates friends gave me for my birthday, I discovered Outdoor Man had been helping himself! His justification? “Didn’t you promise that with all your worldly goods I thee endow?”

At least on divorce he’d only get half, not the whole box!

Monday, 17 March 2008

NO WINNERS, JUST LOSERS


So the speculation and guess work are over as the Mills v McCartney financial proceedings completed today. Or should I say almost over, because it sounds as though they are back in court tomorrow arguing over Ms Mills' appeal against allowing the judgment to be made public.

What we did learn today is that Sir Paul is only worth half of what we had been led to believe and that Ms Mills only got a fifth of the sum she was looking for. All in all a typical divorce outcome played out before the world’s media who wanted to be able to proclaim one or the other a clear winner, but, as we all know, in proceedings like these there are invariably only losers. On the steps of the High Court Heather Mills appeared to claim the title of victor as she declared herself very, very happy, encouraged all would be divorcees to litigate in person and blamed Sir Paul for not being prepared to settle and so avoid the indignity of a court hearing. He on the other hand offered the press no comment and somewhere amidst the proceedings it’s rumoured that his lawyer received a soaking – I wonder if the court roof was leaking?

Maybe I’m completely off the wall but if I’d failed to secure £100 million of the £125 million I was looking for, I’m not sure that I’d be so quick to proclaim a victory. That said it could have been a reflection of how everyone feels once the weight of such proceedings are lifted and, despite her comment that their daughter will now have to travel B class because of the paltry maintenance award in her favour (£35,000 per annum), by my arithmetic Ms Mills will have the best part of £25 million and Sir Paul McCartney of £385 million.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

A BIG OCCASION


I confess that this time last week it was my birthday. Not just any old birthday, but one of those with a great big “0” at the end! Outdoor Man suggested that it might be a good idea to celebrate the occasion by test driving a car, so I organised a party instead. After all, if he wasn’t intending to make a gift to me of a car, was there any point? I digress, for I was intending to write about the party which we organised at a wonderful remote location at an old inn on the top of the North Yorkshire Moors. It was an opportunity to interact with family and friends and whilst I hope that everyone else enjoyed themselves, the birthday girl certainly did.

Organising such events can be a nightmare especially if you have friends who have separated or divorced and you’ve remained in contact with both. Do you invite both, neither or only one? It can be even worse when it’s your wedding and your parents are divorced or the bride and groom are the divorcees and it is their adult children who are apprehensive. The excitement of the big day becomes tinged by concern and in some cases even fear on the part of all involved. It’s no wonder so many people disappear to an exclusive foreign destination to go through the whole process discreetly, witnessed only by a local official and two passing strangers. If, however, the expense of that foreign location or even a fear of flying puts you off, I can certainly recommend the North Yorkshire Moors for seclusion.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

NORTH EAST DIGITAL AWARDS

North East Digital Awards 07 - Please vote for me!
After much cajoling I have been persuaded to permit this blog to be entered in the North East Digital Awards in the category entitled Best Use of Blogging. As someone who prefers self-deprecation to shouting her own praises, it’s not a step I agreed to without a great deal of arm-twisting but then I thought whatever is there to lose, pump up your self esteem girl and go for it. How often do we fail to seize the opportunity and then live to regret it?

Now the embarrassing bit – for any regular readers or even those passing by for the first time - if you think I’m worth it, please register your vote.

Friday, 14 March 2008

OF RELEVANCE TO MERE MORTALS


In anticipation of the final judgment in the McCartney v Mills divorce on Monday 17 March, Resolution issued a press release today pointing out that although the sums of money involved in this case are far removed from the experience of most separating couples, it does raise a number of issues relevant to more ‘normal’ divorces.

Firstly, a high-conflict court battle is not the inevitable end to marriage breakdown, even when there is a lot of money on the table. The traditional approach to divorce involves two solicitors who rarely meet and who focus on representing one side of the split in and out of court. In contrast, mediation and collaborative law offer couples an alternative. With everyone sitting round the negotiating table at the same time, conflict can be reduced and couples are encouraged to reach agreements together, rather than having a decision ‘imposed’ on them by a judge. Collaborative lawyers work with each other during structured meetings with both the husband and wife to reach agreements that suit all the family – especially children. In this way, collaborative agreements are much more flexible than the court process, as couples are not obliged to follow the letter of the law and can instead agree to something different that works for them.

Secondly the need for pre-nups that stick. When courts decide how to divide up the marital pot, current legislation creates a great deal of uncertainty around who will get what. It’s this uncertainty that leads people to rely on expensive court battles and the interpretation of the law by individual judges. With second marriages on the increase, more and more people want the security of a pre-nuptial agreement to end this uncertainty. Resolution lawyers argue that the law is out of step with the demands of the modern family - a divorcee with children may be put off marrying a new partner preciously because the current law doesn’t protect money and property acquired before the relationship. Resolution is calling for legal changes to make pre-marital agreements binding, allowing people to take control of their own financial future rather than relying on the current lottery of divorce court hearings.

Thirdly that when assets acquired individually by a husband and/or wife are brought into a marriage this can be taken into account when finances are divided as a result of divorce, especially if the assets are considerable or if one party has made what the law terms an ‘exceptional contribution’ to the marriage. The usual position, however, is that a marriage is considered to be a partnership of equals, assets acquired during the marriage fall to be divided equally and unequal contributions are only relevant where it would produce an unfair result not to consider them differently.

Fourthly that the length of the marriage is of relevance. Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills were married for a relatively short time. The effect of the shortness of the marriage may be something mentioned in the judgment. Shortness of marriage can be important but only as one of the factors to be taken into account.

Finally, financial proceedings in family law cases are normally conducted in private. This encourages the parties involved to negotiate with each other, even when there is extensive media interest. Usually judgements are not made public. The judge in the McCartney v Mills case has indicated that he intends to make part of the settlement public due to the level of media interest in the case.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

LET'S GROW A LITTLE


The New Scientist today referred to research from Spain and the Netherlands which suggests that height can influence how jealous you feel. The research reveals that men, and more so the shorter they are, feel most nervous about rich, strong, attractive rivals.

Yesterday I mentioned that envy was one of the deadly sins that often appears amongst the particulars included in a divorce petition. I remember years ago, Bernice, a distant cousin, telling me how she had left her husband because he failed to give her any space to associate with friends; often in fits of jealousy followed her, even to work; checked her mobile phone every night for evidence of text messages; unreasonably attempted to control the clothes that she wore, simply to make her look unattractive. Bernice, of course, was a very good looking lady but I had never met her husband. I later heard on the family grapevine that they did reconcile but many years passed before I ever saw her again, this time at a family funeral with her husband. Guess what, he made me feel tall!

I don’t know to what extent this research is of any assistance to the divorce lawyer or the client but, purely in the interest of scientific research, I might now ask any client, who tells me of similar traits to those described by Bernice, if their spouse is short in stature. On second thoughts maybe I should just ask if there is actually a third party involved; there was in Bernice’s case and I hazard a guess that he was a lot taller than her husband.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

THE FOURTEEN DEADLY SINS

The seven deadly sins are: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth. These are all known to divorce lawyers as the basis for drafting divorce petitions on either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. The Vatican has, however, now added to the list with seven new mortal sins, namely: environmental pollution, genetic manipulation, accumulating excessive wealth, inflicting poverty, drug trafficking and consumption, morally debatable experiments and the violation of fundamental human rights. I can’t wait to draft my first “green” petition for say fly-tipping by a multi millionaire.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

LAPTOP BETWEEN THE SHEETS

A poll by the Sleep Council (click here for the BBC report) has revealed that checking texts, surfing the Internet and playing computer games in bed before we go to sleep is growing in popularity and that 1 in 4 of us now sleeps in a separate bed to our partner. Not because of computer games surely. Now I know that in California a woman recently succeeded in divorcing her husband because of his addiction to one computer game in particular (to see John Bolch’s Family Lore Blog on that issue click here), but that’s not happening here in the UK yet, is it?

The survey was presumably confined to adults, so my finding Little Girl snuggled up with her Nintendo DS under the duvet the other night clearly doesn’t count.

Now come on, all adults surely know that beds are meant for 3 things: sleep, snoring and another also beginning with S and if you don’t know what that is then you either shouldn’t be married or alternatively may qualify for an annulment on the grounds of non-consummation, but let’s not get too legal here.

To suggest that we are now lying awake until the early hours checking our Facebook profiles or playing with X boxes in the bedroom defies belief.

My experience as a divorce lawyer allows me to accept separate beds but not because of technology. As Outdoor Man remarked when we were discussing this article, “You can bring your laptop to bed and update your blog every night, if it will stop you snoring!”


Friday, 7 March 2008

COHABITATION LAW REFORM - DELAY MEANS FURTHER INJUSTICES



The Government’s announcement yesterday that it will delay acting on the Law Commission’s proposals for the introduction of legal protection for couples who live together, means continued distress and hardship when their relationships end.

Findings from the British Social Attitudes Survey published by the National Centre for Social Research in January 2008 back the case for urgent reform of the law.

“The government is seriously out of step with public opinion on this issue if it does not act now. The British Social Attitudes Survey revealed that nine out of ten people think that a cohabiting partner should have a right to financial provision if their relationship is a long-term one, includes children and has involved prioritising one partner’s career over the other’s,” said Jane Craig, a member of Resolution’s Cohabitation Committee.

“The present law creates real injustice for many people. Our members frequently see people who face financial hardship and even homelessness as a result of the current law. Any further delay inevitably means further injustice for some people,” said Jane Craig.

The British Social Attitudes Survey revealed widespread confusion over what protection couples that live together have under the law, with 51 per cent of people still believing that cohabiting couples have rights as “common law” spouses – but no such right exists.

A government-funded awareness campaign in 2004 clearly failed to get the message across sufficiently that living together does not provide cohabiting couples with financial rights if their relationship ends, even if they have lived together for many years and have had children together. Instead, these couples face increased insecurity and distress at the time of relationship break up.

At the request of the Government the Law Commission consulted widely on this issue and its proposals for legal reform were published on 31 July 2007.

“The Government must and should act now to ensure an end to the injustices and vulnerability created by the present law,” said Jane Craig.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

CAUGHT IN THE CROSS-FIRE


I’m told that yet another sick video has been posted on YouTube this week. Apparently it involves an American marine in Iraq and a puppy, and is causing widespread outrage especially from animal lovers. As a result certain areas of the media have been lashing up a debate about barbarism, the treatment of dumb animals and our reaction to it as well as double standards of morality and whether we think more about animals than people. I do not wish to get embroiled in the debate but did hear various viewpoints being aired vehemently on the radio today. Some of the comments struck a chord when they referred to victims trapped in a war zone; how the perpetrators should protect the innocent caught in the crossfire and if a warring party can’t act responsibly, then it can’t expect respect from those it abuses.

Monday, 3 March 2008

THE ENFORCEMENT OF ROMANCE


Under Iranian law a husband apparently pledges a gift to his wife on marriage known as a “mahr”. She can claim delivery of it at anytime during the marriage or else in the event of divorce. It is reported that an Iranian court today made an order under this law requiring a husband to comply with his promise of ten years ago to deliver 124,000 red roses to his wife and has seized his apartment until he does so.

Inevitably court decisions of this nature raise eyebrows amongst lawyers here, unused to such gestures of romance or laws to enforce them. In particular, how has enforcement of this pledge by means of court proceedings affected the marriage and where will the wife put the 124,000 roses when she receives them?

If such a remedy was available in this country would women prefer the contents of their local garden centres to divorce and the delivery up of the home?

Sunday, 2 March 2008

MEN ARE FROM MARS


If there’s one book everyone should be compelled to read before marriage it has to be “Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus” by John Gray. Come to think of it, everyone should read it as soon as possible and that way a vast number of misunderstandings, and the broken relationships that follow could be avoided.

Constance has been back in touch. (Click here for details of our last conversation.)She’s even found time for another relationship since we last spoke but this time she’s dumped him. She tells me he was a Martian and couldn’t understand her (planets of origin; different languages, I thought, as she regaled the whole sad story to me on the telephone this afternoon). Sounds like he kept asking her what was wrong, and she kept saying, “Nothing.”

Understandably, his male conditioned response to “nothing” was to indicate, “Okay then, let’s go out and watch a football match.”

What Constance, as a female from Planet Venus, actually meant of course was: “I am up to my eyes in debt, I am worried sick about the situation and I just want to unload and talk about it, after you show yourself sympathetic to my predicament.”

Inevitably, she couldn’t actually bring herself to say that, although she managed fine chatting away to me for a full hour and a half. Anyway, as I said, he obviously knew fine well that there was a problem but if she wanted help to solve it, she would have had to tell him what it was. Maybe I overdid the sympathetic agony aunt role because after another half hour, and in order to wind this tedious conversation up, I had to say more. I told her that if she had explained her woes to the Martian, he’d no doubt have taken the initiative to sever the relationship himself and so put her in exactly the same solitary position as she is now anyway.

Strangely, she hung up on me again! I don’t think she can cope with my bilingual ability.