Sunday, 26 July 2009


The annual summer holiday can put enormous pressures on families. Cloistered together in an unfamiliar environment the vacation in paradise can quickly turn into the holiday from hell. Last week we’d planned to sail around Scotland’s Western Isles. Outdoor Man, however, was quick to recognise that a hostile weather forecast could result in domestic disharmony and an uncomfortable time for all. A quick search using the Internet found us making a scenic detour by air to Andalucía instead. There we occupied a villa in the hills some 15 minutes from Nerja. Sitting in a mango grove, amidst a Spanish heat wave when temperatures on the Costa del Sol hit 42 degrees; no air conditioning and all the local bug life to contend with; how do you ensure that everyone continues to speak civilly to each other and you return to the UK with family life intact?

Here are my tips:

  1. Keep reminding everyone they could be sailing in rain, wind and mist instead.

  2. Use the pool frequently and preferably bring only one piece of flotation equipment for interest. That way everyone interacts trying to get to it.

  3. Don’t lecture when someone leaves crumbs in the kitchen and the ant armies invade. Just sweep them in a line to the transgressor’s bed and he won’t do it again.

  4. Hire the most underpowered car available that way it takes twice as long to get to the supermarket but on the basis that it has a climate control switch everyone cools down in the process.

  5. If things get really bad, hide the return air tickets and then offer them as rewards for good behaviour.

We had an idyllic week, honestly!

With the school summer holidays upon us however many children whose parents have separated spend longer periods with or away from one or both parents. It can be difficult to think about not seeing children for weeks at a time, and the changes of routine can create stress for your kids too. Here are Resolution’s tips:

  • Talk to the other parent about plans. If you disagree, make the best of things and focus on what is best for your children.

  • Plan ahead. How would you like to spend time with your children and what can you do to prepare them for holidays and special occasions?

  • Instead of informing children about plans, talk with them about how they would like to spend time with you.

  • Build in quality time with low-key activities like visiting the park, reading a book together or playing a game. Too many exciting activities can overwhelm children and tire them out.

  • Support your child’s relationship with your ex.

  • If travelling with the kids, give the other parent contact information and details – you both have a right to know where your children are.

  • Help children maintain consistent contact with the other parent by phone or email. Remember that children may miss their other parent.

  • When your children are with the other parent, use your time to get refreshed. Visit friends, take a class, read a book or enjoy a lazy day.

    For more parental advice from Resolution click here

Friday, 17 July 2009


Last night I went to listen to Professor Germaine Greer speak.

“Wife,” she began, “is a reviled 4 letter word. Whoever wants to be one?”

She then presented us with a conundrum.

“But why is it that every little girl wants to be a bride and thinks herself a failure if she hasn’t married by her mid-twenties? Wherever do girls get that idea of failure from? It certainly isn’t from their mothers!”

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


“What’s Love Got to Do with It” is the title of new research published by the Australian National University. It is reported that the study identifies factors that lead to couples separating and based on the couples tracked these include :

Wizened prunes or where a husband is more than 9 years older than his wife.

Parental example where one of the couple’s parents separated .

Ashtrays or where one of the couple smokes and the other does not.

Surprisingly factors which appeared to have less effect than assumed, included unemployment, children and a wife’s employment status.

All of which would lead me to believe that any influx of clients as a perceived result of the economic downturn, is more likely to be because one of them has taken to smoking to try to help cope with the situation, turned into a mature wrinkly in the process and/or been comforted by or taken advice from the older generation.

Monday, 13 July 2009


It was with a sense of déjà vu that I read reports about the Conservative party’s new think tank proposals calling for a compulsory three month period for reflection before a separating couple can begin divorce proceedings. Moreover, before and during marriage a couple, whilst not being compelled, would instead be strongly encouraged to attend some kind of relationship classes.

Somewhere along the way there must be statistics on what percentage of separated couples commences divorce proceedings within 3 months. In my experience, it is only after much soul searching and often counselling that people proceed. The only immediate grounds for divorce in this country remain adultery or unreasonable behaviour and any person who commences proceedings quickly invariably does so in circumstances that they feel to be fully justified. Moreover, the first three months are generally spent exploring arrangements arising from the separation, including financially and in relation to the children.

Divorce is a piece of paper that allows someone to remarry and for most separating couples is therefore of little consequence to begin with. Instead it is used to confirm financial settlements or allow the courts to help broker deals or determine arrangements where agreement has proved impossible. What difference will a three month prohibition make?

The Conservative paper however seems to suggest that expectations of marriage are now too high and relationships will be saved if couples can somehow learn to modify their aspirations. I am a supporter of any steps that can help save marriages and prevent or reduce the trauma for the whole family that inevitably accompanies a split. For relationship counselling to do this, however, it must be widely available and totally voluntary. To suggest however that couples should learn to compromise in order to save their marriage sounds to me both patronising and insulting. We are talking about adults, many of whom can be bitterly hurt emotionally or physically by their partner; surely they have the right to decide their future for themselves? What kind of political party seeks to legislate to try to curtail lawful, personal aspirations?

Divorce is not easy but it is now an accepted phenomenon. I suggest that it is the level of acceptance that has increased the number of divorces and not a shift in a willingness to compromise. There have always been dreadfully unhappy marriages. The difference is that three generations ago, people remained trapped in them.

Sunday, 5 July 2009


Last week there was both good news and bad news for divorcees. The Telegraph in its inimitable style published both on the same page in Friday’s newspaper. Headlined “Landmark victory for heiress in pre-nup case” it reported that “pre-nuptial agreements were recognised in English law for the first time” when the Court of Appeal held that family courts should give due weight to pre-nuptial contracts entered into. That of course is excellent, as so many divorced clients when intending re-marriage, have returned to me at Latimer Hinks in order to make a pre-nuptial agreement, unsure as to whether or not it will have any legal standing or not if the relationship goes awry.

However, and just underneath, the bad news for divorcees was headlined “Living alone can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.” Apparently, living alone in middle-age doubles the chances of developing the disease according to a study published by the British Medical Journal. If it’s any consolation, I don’t live alone (far from it) but already my memory is far from what it used to be. Now where did I put Little Girl’s PE kit in readiness for school tomorrow and what have I done with the computer mouse; I could swear I used it only two minutes ago?

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


Despite talk of an economic recovery, the recession is still making life hard for couples wanting to move on after divorce. Resolution, says that continuing problems in the housing market are preventing divorcing couples from moving to separate accommodation after their divorce. Selling the family home is often an important step for couples and their families making the transition from one home to two after divorce, but with limited mortgage deals, the increase in unemployment, and one in ten homeowners now in negative equity, selling up or moving on is easier said than done for many couples.

To help people in this situation, Resolution is today launching a series of online hints and tips for couples “living apart together” ahead of a national conference on the credit crunch and family law in London.

Having made the difficult decision to split, it can be incredibly stressful for couples to then have to live together – and to not know when this property limbo will end. That’s why we have launched these useful tips, which are available online, outline some simple practical steps to dealing with debt, property issues and how to cope generally with living with your ex.

Here are some of the tips for couples “living apart together”. For more tips, including those on dealing with debt and property, log onto

1. Try to agree some ‘ground rules’ – especially around subjects that are likely to prompt argument. If you can’t do this together – think about using a professional – such as a mediator – to help you to discuss and agree things calmly

2. Get short breaks from one another – a week-end with a friend, a day out or even a short holiday will help you to see things from a fresh perspective.

3. If you can, try to stay cost efficient whilst you are still under the same roof Continuing to share costs in regard to food, housekeeping items etc. will be better than doubling costs unnecessarily.

4. Play fair in regard to new partners or relationships – and don’t expect to use your home as a base for entertaining! – this is particularly important if you are a parent.

5. Don’t lose heart – no recession lasts forever – keep thinking creatively, get specialist advice in regard to finances, property and the lettings market.