Wednesday, 30 April 2008

TAKING PRECAUTIONS


In my last blog entry below, I alluded to the fact that divorce gets blamed for all kinds of ills in society. Last week, my attention was drawn to an article by Jenny Hope for the Daily Mail (click here for the full article). Apparently incidences of sexually transmitted diseases are increasing in the over-50’s and, as you’ll have guessed, the reason attributed is the increasing number of divorces in that age group. So if you’re over 50, recently divorced and thinking of becoming sexually active again, the considered advice is, of course, to take precautions, not against pregnancy but chlamydia and gonorrhea. In our nanny state it’s perceived as a problem the Government must tackle in terms of educating older members of society and being aware that they are generally omitted from the campaigns that plague our airwaves or magazines all aimed at the other end of the age spectrum. Maybe the courts should be sending out suitably worded literature with decree absolutes whilst solicitors should be required to install vending machines for condoms in their waiting areas. Any other suggestions?

Monday, 28 April 2008

LIES, DAMNED LIES AND STATISTICS


The front page of The Litigation Letter that landed on my desk today boasts the headline “Family Meltdown”. It’s a clear quotation from Mr Justice Coleridge’s speech at the recent Resolution annual conference. However, this article also quotes figures which it says show that the marriage rate in England & Wales has dropped to its lowest level (236,980) since 1895 when the population was presumably considerably smaller than it is now. At the same time the article claimed that the divorce rate has increased to its highest level at 45%, with 10% of marriages lasting less than 5 years.

With figures of this magnitude being quoted, no wonder it’s so easy for those in power to lambast single parents and the breakdown in family life for the ills of society including wayward adolescents, school truancy, bullying, drug abuse, crime and teenage pregnancies. What the figures clearly show, of course, is that cumbersome, outdated divorce laws do nothing to keep marriages together. Quite what the Government intends to do about it though is another issue, especially when we still need some proper laws to regulate the break up of relationships between those couples who opt simply to live together and don’t therefore even feature in these statistics.

Of course, if you are fortunate enough that your marriage has subsisted happily for 5 years or more, what is also suggested (assuming consistency in mortality and divorce rates) is that it is too early to start planning your 60th wedding anniversary. Apparently only 10% of couples marrying today will survive to make those celebrations; whilst purportedly 45 % will divorce, another 45% will be separated by death, because the average age for marrying itself has increased to 31.8 for men and 29.7 for women. That means that the couples who do make it will, on average, presumably be 91.8 and 89.7 years of age. Further, 10% of the number quoted for couples marrying means that 23,698 couples a year should attain this achievement; now that’s what I call success. I knew I’d find something promising in those figures somewhere.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

THE SILLY FILLY


Despite earlier resolutions I am unable to resist the opportunity to blog again about the Silly Filly and the Ex. They are no longer an item. He’s had a breakdown and she drove him to it. She abandoned him in the fast lane from where he was transported to a specialist body and recovery centre.

I can’t wait to honk the horn and wave at the Silly Filly as she queues at the bus stop in the morning.
For the beginning of this saga of woe, click here

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

INVOLVING THE IN-LAWS


There appears to be a current trend for involving third parties in financial proceedings ancillary to divorce. In my experience it is a growing phenomenon especially in farming cases and those involving family businesses. “In case we can’t get what you deserve from your spouse, we’ll involve his or her parents,” seems to be the advice being given.

Recently I have been involved in two such matters, representing the third parties on both occasions. Now, pardon me for expressing my view but they never actually married the claimant, so why should they be penalised? They may have given birth to someone who did so marry, but in the eyes of the law that’s hardly a crime and certainly doesn’t give rise to vicarious liability.

As a lawyer I advise clients on the law and how it affects their position. I find it exasperating therefore when the opposing lawyer and his client think that an issue can be resolved by verbal intimidation, litigious threats, a rule of thumb, the misconstruction of case law or even a wish and a prayer.

Complex legal and equitable principles as well as trust law are usually involved. The legal position therefore needs to be properly and meticulously researched. There is not, however, any legal principle to the effect that simply because you spend time or money on someone else’s property or enterprise that you are then entitled to share in it or even assume ownership in its entirety. There are always other factors involved, including for instance common intention (and that’s before you get into considering the evidence to prove your case). Of course, it may all seem unfair depending where you are arguing from but whoever said the law or even life itself for that matter is fair?

If third parties are joined in your ancillary proceedings then you need to ensure that you do have a winnable argument. If not and as in my cases, no declaration will be made in your favour, the third parties will be released from the proceedings and you can be ordered to meet their legal costs.

This morning one of the expert witnesses involved asked me if succeeding for a third party in such circumstances gives me a feeling of euphoria.

Generally in contested family proceedings there are no winners, only losers. Both parties bear their own costs and everyone, including the lawyers, leaves the court thinking “what a waste and if only…” When you act for successful third parties however the victor doesn’t just win, he is victorious! The loser gains nothing except his own and the third party’s legal bills to discharge. For a family lawyer these are strange concepts and feelings. If I get to like them then I shall have to take up litigation instead with its ethos of win or lose.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

MUSIC TO THE EARS


“Like living with a screeching violin,” is how clients have described to me the effect of a wife’s constant nagging. Little Girl has been learning to play the violin for four years. Today she was practising a new piece. Sometimes, I know how those clients feel.

Friday, 18 April 2008

THE BIG FREEZE


At what air temperature do your tears freeze? It’s not a question that I normally ponder on but I believe that I nearly discovered the answer last month when I was descending on skis from an altitude of 3,800 metres in a temperature of -20◦ Celsius. I adjusted my goggles, pulled tight my fleece hood and blinked the affected eye in an effort to stop my lids sealing, whilst also hastening my speed. In the end I had to thank Lady Nature for at least making my tears salty and so reducing the temperature at which they would have turned to solid ice.

Does she work in a similar way, I wonder, when blood runs cold and hearts turn to stone?

Thursday, 17 April 2008

THE SEAT OF POWER


This week I have been reading papers describing a man who appears to be suffering relationship problems. He was organising a party but it is falling into disarray and there have been rumours circulating for a little while that fisticuffs have even broken out. The man is becoming marginalised. He is openly criticised whenever he tries to speak to justify his actions. He is being pilloried for the way he’s handled the purse strings, as it seems that there is now debt and hardship everywhere. Indecision on his part is allegedly making the whole sorry situation worse and those close to him are reported to be “down in the dumps” as a result.

Now he’s visiting distant relatives in America to get away from it all, whilst asserting that he is committed to sticking it out in the belief that there will be good times again.

Sounds familiar? Welcome to the world of Gordon Brown, PM.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

FEMALE DOMINANCE


John Bolch at Family Lore today ruminated on the inevitable demise of divorce (and family lawyers) if parthenogenesis became the normal route for reproduction in the human species.

Co-incidentally Chris Evans on BBC Radio 2 yesterday speculated that with more and more females breaking through the glass ceiling, the evolution of the human species is likely to speed up and women will become like many of the female gender in the insect and reptile kingdoms. They will in essence rule the world, allow men to exist only to impregnate them and then, of course, eat them. There will be presumably be no point in divorce lawyers then either.

Now in isolation I would have dismissed both of these predictions as pure self indulgent nonsense on the part of those advancing them. However, to hear of two similar theories in such a short space of time has to lead you to wonder if there really can be smoke without fire!

Monday, 14 April 2008

TWO IN A ROW


Somewhat belatedly, I have just read in quick succession “Angela’s Ashes” and then “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha,” by Frank McCourt and Roddy Doyle respectively. Both are tales of childhood in Ireland, albeit a generation apart. What struck me the most though was the raw deal the wives and their children got in both books. Physically and verbally abused, it was women in such situations that the “new” divorce legislation in this country was meant to assist. Except even if the writers’ mothers had been able to divorce, it’s hard to see how it would have made the slightest difference to the authors, their siblings or their parents. You can’t legislate to make an absent father see his children, stop drinking or behave like a proper role model. Also is there any gain in seeking divorce if society castigates the families still further, women remain second class citizens or there is no adequate structure to provide for them financially? Fortunately the social situation here and in Ireland too is not as it was sixty and forty years ago. Sometimes one has to read books like this to realise how far we have advanced in such a relatively short space of time and also how much still needs to alter.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

ROAD RAGE


There is a time and a place for everything. Unfortunately the family car is an inevitable source of friction when travelling with your nearest and dearest. If he’s driving they will invariably be lost and she will be pleading with him to stop and seek directions. If she’s driving, he will not have been able to resist the urge to offer positive criticism and she will be threatening to throw the keys down the next drain they pass, if he does not shut up.

It was reported that a male driver in Australia was stopped by police in the early hours this morning whilst driving at 125mph (203kph) through a suburb of Perth with a 62mph (100kph) speed limit. He was apparently arguing with his wife on his mobile phone at the time, and the argument continued even after he was stopped. I wonder if he could have been lost and she was offering him directions.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH


So it took scientists at 3 universities to publish research which suggests that we can get an inkling as to whether a prospective partner is after a long-term relationship or something a little more casual just by looking at their face.

Funnily that’s the same technique used by most of my clients to try to tell if their partner is being honest about the affair they suspect them of. “Look me in the eyes, and deny it.” Most of them do deny it, of course, and the client is left with only intuition based on the way they hold their eyes, twitch, flinch, or blush.

Maybe university researchers can work out if there is anything in this and whether my clients have themselves made yet another scientific discovery.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

DOMESTIC RELATIONSHIPS


I am intrigued by a factoid I’ve just been presented with. (Factoid, definition: a piece of unreliable information, presumed to be true because of the manner in which it is presented.)

Apparently, a substantial number of people in Britain today will have a longer relationship with a household appliance than they will with a partner.

The possibilities are endless. Will there come a time when you need to see a solicitor to secure a divorce from your washing machine? Or what about paying maintenance for the cooker and its four little hobs? Maybe you even fancy a trial separation from the vacuum cleaner. It certainly gives the prospect of a quick spin and then tumble with the dryer a whole new meaning.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

GETTING AWAY FROM IT ALL


Sometime there comes a point when we just want to get away. The stress and anxiety of our daily life pushes us to taking a luxury holiday in the belief that it will prove the panacea for our problems. Put enough distance between us and them and they’ll go away. Sadly it isn’t always a successful strategy; worries can travel with us and spending two weeks lying on a beach, soaking up the sun may give more opportunity than we would like to dwell on them

My own preference for a totally destressing break remains an activity holiday. Trekking (amongst my clients Kilimanjaro remains the most popular destination), white water rafting, cycling, climbing, sailing or my own recent choice of skiing all work in the same way. During the day you are concentrating so much on staying upright, defeating the elements and terrain to reach your destination intact that you can think of nothing else. At night you are so exhausted you really do sleep! Net result: you arrive home mentally refreshed, physically fit and ready to face the problems confronting you again.

Friday, 4 April 2008

GANG SHOW


Gang Show 07
Originally uploaded by Mark E

I have just returned home after watching my nephews participate in a local gang show. Nothing in “Riding Along on the Crest of a Wave” that could possibly have any connection with divorce you might think, and yes you would be correct. In fact the closest we got to anything that could be repeated in this blog was when one boy scout dressed as a woman said to another boy scout dressed as a woman: “There are enough grounds in this cup of coffee for a divorce.”

Thursday, 3 April 2008

IN VOGUE


Have you ever fancied being a magazine cover girl? Have you taken your flight of fancy still further and tried to become something you are not? At a time when makeovers are in vogue, the pressure upon us to look good, stay active and behave 20 years younger than we really are has never been so great. What if it’s only you who seeks to change and not your partner? If you go down this path isn’t it something you should do together? If not, what will be the outcome?

If you are nonetheless confident that becoming the new front page face is certainly your style then just click here.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

DOUBLE DIVORCE BLOW


Yesterday a Muslim man in Malaysia divorced his two wives within minutes of each other in the same court. Apparently both women, who are reported to get on well with each other and who both lived with the man concerned, had expressed a simultaneous desire to be divorced, begging the question whether this was some kind of plot or alternatively what extremes of behaviour he had displayed to lose not just one but both of his wives. What must have made it even worse is that the women’s occupations (a housewife and a nurse) were obviously designed to meet his every need. In any event the husband said “talaq” against first one and then the other.

Here in the UK polygamous marriages are, of course, prohibited regardless of one’s religion. It does make you wonder, however, about the complexity of the financial proceedings that could follow. Indeed those men who think they get a rough deal here when the house is sold and they receive only a small percentage of the proceeds could fare a lot worse if they had two wives to re-house and pay maintenance for.