Tuesday, 27 January 2009


As the Government’s Welfare Reform Bill is debated in Parliament, Resolution is calling for an urgent rethink on draconian punitive measures on child support.

The Bill gives powers to civil servants to confiscate the driving licence or passport of individuals who they believe are behind with their child maintenance payments without the need to obtain a Court Order.

Chair of Resolution’s Child Support committee Kim Fellowes said: “We agree with the government’s aim that all parents meet their pastoral and financial responsibilities toward their children. However it is well known that the administration of child support in this country is riddled with errors and bureaucratic failures. Until the system is fixed, running smoothly and has public confidence there can be no justification for not allowing a right to challenge such draconian measures in the courts. This measure was rejected by Parliament when the Government tried to include it in a review of the child support system last year. It is incredible that they are now seeking to reintroduce it in the context of a new Bill entirely, and we urge them to reconsider.”

Sunday, 25 January 2009


Whilst shopping with Little Girl yesterday (I carry the bags and provide the money, whilst she buys), I came across a pile of playing card size boxes in one store claiming to be “Break-Up Survival Kits.” Intrigued, I picked one up to examine the list of contents. As well as what must have been a very small print survival manual full of useful hints, they contained:

1. Stickers to deface photos of the ex (clearly total destruction doesn’t work anymore?)
2. A poster on which to write the 10 worst things about the ex ( a blank sheet of paper just won’t suffice)
3. A mirror (no explanation as to why, and presumably just on the off chance you might not have one in your home after dividing the house contents).
4. A sticker to place on your telephone to warn you not to call the ex (I assume for those people whose memories are failing and believe they are still a couple)

Needless to say they were on a display marked “reduced” and I suspect that the failure of the store to shift those boxes at their full price may have had more to do with their contents, than a downturn in the number of couples separating.

It did make me wonder though whether there is an actual market for such a kit and if so what it should contain? Handkerchief in case it’s a really bad experience; chocolate to make you feel better; dating agency details for when you are ready to seek out someone new, perhaps. Has anyone any other ideas – together we could be onto a winning patent?

Thursday, 22 January 2009


At a meeting at lunchtime, one of my colleagues came out with an expression we were quick to dismiss as linked to her farming roots.

Later, however, I was subsequently reminded of the oft repeated adage, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” I don’t know why but that little saying always brings to my mind a stereotypical 1950’s housewife complete with apron, oven gloves, lip-sticked smile and a freshly baked cake.

Now what was it my colleague said? “You must feed a rat, before you poison it!”

We were discussing property matters, honestly!

Sunday, 18 January 2009


Today we celebrated my brother in law’s 60th birthday with a family party. Of course such a celebration should never really be about attaining a certain age, but instead about what one has achieved in the preceding years. Certainly my nephews and nieces came up with a string of interesting facts and statistics on that one, before we performed the birthday toast.

It reminded me of an occasion when, once upon a time, I was eating in a local bistro, and totally co-incidentally, or maybe as a result of divine intervention, a client of some 15 years before was also there with a group of friends. I was invited to join their table to toast the anniversary of her divorce or rather, as it was explained to me, 15 years in sole charge of both the TV remote control and toilet seat!

Saturday, 17 January 2009


I updated my mobile phone this week and have spent hours today configuring the settings, to ensure that I can communicate by text, e-mail and SMS as well as phone. Whilst I loathed the time spent, I have consoled myself with the thought that it was an investment for the good of future connectivity. Communication is important and a good marriage is also based on it.

Further, if a marriage fails, communicating effectively with a solicitor is vital. Indeed I often recommend that clients bring “shopping lists” to appointments, to make sure that nothing is overlooked. I recall a colleague signing up for a course on communication skills and when I asked him why, he told me about an initial meeting, once upon a time, with a client which went something like this:

“What’s your problem?” he asked tactfully.
“My husband,” she replied sadly.

"What’s he like?"
“Sport, reading and crosswords.”

“I meant what’s your case?”
“Just a lightweight Antler holdall that qualifies as cabin baggage.”

“Yes, but how are your relations?”
“My parents are good, honest and clean living; my sister in London is well and I have a cousin who’s been to the doctor’s recently.”

“How do you get on?”
“I normally stand on a stool and then a little jump generally does it.”

“Okay, does he beat you up?”
“Every morning, like clockwork.”

"What about at night-time?”
“He’s first into bed too.”

“Any scars?”
“A BMW and a Ford Fiesta.”

“Does he drive you to the limit?”
“Only into town.”

“Is he playing the game?”
“Tennis, occasionally badminton.”

“Does he pay you attention?”
“No, housekeeping, in cash.”

“So where are the issues?”
“In my handbag, in case I sneeze whilst I’m out.”

“Look do you have any grounds?” he enquired in exasperation
“1/3 acre, landscaped, with an adjoining paddock for the horses,” she replied, indignantly.

“Have you tried counselling?”
“If we cancelled it would incur a penalty.”

“Are you happy?”
“No, I’ m called …..”

It was at this point he raised his white flag, surrendered gracefully and signed up for further training!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


Dealing with the annual post Christmas influx of family work, I very nearly missed the tribulations of the couple arguing over a kidney. Last week it was disclosed that, as part of their divorce settlement, a New York doctor is demanding that his estranged wife return a kidney he donated to her when they were on better terms or else pay him $1.5 million for its value. I had assumed that as in England it might be rather hard to argue that a human organ is actually a marital asset, but today the woman’s lawyer has been reported as stating that the kidney wasn’t such a valuable gift after all, as apparently there were a number of other potential donors.

In many cases there can be difficulties in agreeing the basis upon which assets are to be valued, but transplant organs have to be in a league of their own. Maybe Shakespeare had a point and in future I’m going to have to take a little more seriously those clients who claim to be seeking their “pound of flesh.”

Tuesday, 6 January 2009


I am back at work and the Christmas festivities are behind me. Instead the January Sales now beckon and I confess that I have had a couple of unsuccessful mooches around various department stores and shoe shops. What is it about a sticker indicating 60% off a pair of leather boots that can cause perfectly rational women to behave like Cinderella’s step sisters in an effort to squeeze their feet into objects a full size too small for them? Hope or optimism? Either way it reminded me of a short story I recently read in December’s issue of Woman & Home. It was written by Douglas Kennedy and he described a visit to the doctor by the heroine, who was going through a particularly difficult time as a result of her marriage breakdown. The doctor gave her anti-depressants as well as sound advice to the effect that you can’t “equate divorce to a far-too-painful pair of shoes” that can be “kicked off” when you finally decide they don’t fit. The heroine was clearly not as impressed with the imagery used as I was, though I do question how easy it is to kick off an ill-fitting pair of shoes, especially when they are too tight. From my experience at the Sales not easy at all and even faintly embarrassing.