Wednesday, 30 September 2009

THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING MILLIONS


The press has been following the tragic divorce tale of Mr and Mrs Young. They separated in 2006 when it’s alleged Mr Young was worth some £400 million. It is reported that sadly he now claims that, and partially as result of the credit crunch, he is £23 million in debt and facing potential bankruptcy. Understandably Mrs Young does not appear to accept that so much money could go missing in such a short time but it seems the time limit set by the court for an explanation expired on 7th September and the case was back in the High Court this week. It was claimed on behalf of Mr Young that he had been unable to comply because he had been admitted to hospital apparently suffering from a mental breakdown. According to the press reports, rather than sending him to prison for contempt, the Judge has given him another 6 weeks to provide full financial details, as well as a medical report on his condition. One assumes this is to enable him to justify the reason for his default in circumstances where there seems to be speculation as to whether or not his illness could be faked as opposed to co-incidentally convenient.

Reading the reports which alluded to rent of £10,000 per month, expensive cars, jewellery, yachts, and maintenance needs of £48,000 per month, one realises that this is clearly a situation far removed from the routine divorce cases being decided up and down the country. The sum which Mr Young has purportedly lost in a period of some 3 years is more than most people spend in a lifetime, whilst a monthly maintenance payment of £48,000 would support many families for at least 2 years.

Ignoring social comment and aside from the spectre of a prison sentence (which incidentally a Judge can impose on anyone who breaches an order of the court), what really interests the press is, of course, whether or not the millions are simply missing, or indeed well and truly lost. It’s a kind of modern divorce detective mystery unfolding across the newsstands. A perpetrator and a motive have been implied, but the evidence is awaited.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

THE ICING ON THE CAKE


Well Sunday was the big day. Outdoor Man and I dropped Apprentice Man off in a strange city, in another part of the country to start his university career. After checking the back seat carefully to ensure that he hadn’t stowed away to return with us (not that it was ever likely that he would do so), we drove away back up the M1.

Now three days later there is an unidentified gap in my daily routine, a distinct absence of smelly trainer shoes and one less to cook and clean for. Despite these clear and obvious advantages, Outdoor Man has identified me as feeling bereft!

“You need to keep yourself busy,” he has advised. “Why not take up a new hobby, like cake decorating for instance?”

Sometimes Outdoor Man has very strange ideas.

Nevertheless and in an effort to placate him I have been using the Internet to source what I am lacking when it comes to cake decorating skills. In doing so, I came across these pictures at Fresh Pics. Perhaps Outdoor Man is right after all, maybe icing cakes would be a very useful second line for a divorce lawyer!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

BUNDLES OF JOY


The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced this week that couples are to get new maternity/paternity leave rights giving them greater choice and flexibility in the first year of a baby’s life. Essentially they will be able to transfer up to six months of the mother’s maternity leave to the father, which can be taken by the father once the mother has returned to work.

As every parent knows having a baby can be a stressful as well as a joyous experience, especially if juggling work and home commitments at the same time. As every divorce lawyer knows, those early months can also be so stressful that the domestic disharmony that can ensue can also lead to separation and relationship breakdown as everyone seeks to adapt to their changing roles.

So will a benefit intended to alleviate stress and difficulties, also in its own way and in some cases, make a relationship crisis even worse? Come 2011, I can well imagine the cases where one party or the other bemoans the fact that the other shirked their responsibilities by failing to take the second six months’ leave offered. Alternatively what about those mothers who might complain that they had to return to work so that their husbands could have six months at home with little Jack or Joanna, only to come home from work every day and find the house in disarray; dirty nappies everywhere and no dinner on the table or smiling hubby to greet them.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

PROCRASTINATION


It was reported last week that the founder of Playboy, Hugh Heffner , and his wife are to divorce after living apart as next door neighbours for over 11 years. Why after all that time do people bother?

Well if like Hugh you are in your eighties, there might be a number of reasons especially if you’ve been living with someone else in the meantime and want to wed before it’s too late; it could also be something you always meant to get round to when you found the time, or, as a client once upon a time explained to me, have a desire to die single and avoid any potential inheritance disputes by getting financial issues sorted within the divorce. Hugh’s reasons appear to have been slightly different and accelerated by a dispute over property.

Of course, if you’ve lived next door to each other throughout then starting proceedings doesn’t involve any difficulty in tracing the whereabouts of your spouse. Believe me, after 11 years that isn’t always easy especially if you lived abroad as a couple or your spouse went “travelling” after your separation.

Conversely living next door to each other can’t be easy especially if your husband, despite his age, is notorious for residing with more than one young lady at once.

Monday, 14 September 2009

JUSTLY DESERVED OR DEGRADING?


The Times today reported on Baroness Deech’s call for an overhaul of family law. According to the article Baroness Deech believes that divorce laws are unfair to men, whilst multi-million pound settlements are degrading to women. Strange, I can’t think of many men being ordered to make such settlements if they don’t have the means to pay them, nor why women should go to court to secure a payment, simply to feel degraded upon receipt of it. The Baroness is proposing that judicial discretion to determine what is fair in any given case should be fettered and that instead we should have what appear almost to be draconian rules as to when for instance maintenance should be paid. The trouble is that the majority of divorce cases in this country don’t involve millions of pounds and instead outcomes are based on need as well as fairness. One size doesn’t fit all and we need to look no further than the Child Support Agency for evidence in that regard.

Resolution believes that discretion is an important part of the family law system, enabling outcomes to be tailor-made for families with the emphasis always on the best interests of children. But it agrees that there is a need for the Law Commission to review current legislation in an effort to see if greater clarity and certainty can be delivered whilst the benefits of the discretionary approach are maintained.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

TOGETHER UNTIL DEATH


John Marcotte believes so firmly in traditional values that he has filed a petition with the Secretary of State for California to try to ban divorce in the sunshine state where some 75% of marriages are estimated to end in divorce. “Previous generations had it right,” he writes. “It’s better to stay together in a soul-sucking sham of a marriage, filled with icy silence punctuated with passive-aggressive hostilities than to admit you might have made a mistake.” Somehow I don’t think he’s sat at my desk and listened to some of the tales of ill-treatment and misery that I’ve been confronted with.

I’m not sure that he’ll have the support either of all those A list film and TV stars who live in California and change spouses quicker than I change my motor car. If he did they’d presumably have the resources to back his campaign rather than letting it run on proceeds from the sale of T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan: “You said till death us do part. You’re not dead yet.”

Whilst I appreciate that an argument against divorce can be based on religious grounds, here in England and Wales we have a process known as judicial separation for people who for religious reasons don’t feel they can divorce. The process very much mirrors divorce, and financial settlements are granted as part of it. At the end of the day the couple remain married but are released from any legal duty to cohabit. In the 21st Century, society has surely developed to the point that it will never force a couple to live together, especially if one is at risk of harm from doing so.

Friday, 11 September 2009

WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF


Watching our local farmers taking advantage of an unexpected warm spell in the weather to bale the remainder of their cereal crop reminded me of that adage about sifting wheat from the chaff. Information on the Internet is now so vast that even with the assistance of your favourite search engine it isn’t always easy to find what you are looking for. That said, I came across this useful site today, intended to help couples understand each other and take steps to alter things before they end up visiting a divorce solicitor. The Couple Connection.

Also whilst on the subject of the web, Resolution has come of age and joined Twitter. You can follow it here.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

999


Today is of course the ninth day of the ninth month of the ninth year of the second millennium. In Chinese culture the number 9 is pronounced the same as the word for long lasting and so is often associated with marriage as a symbol for an everlasting relationship. The significance of today’s date was not therefore lost on the 500 Chinese Malaysian couples in Kuala Lumpur who participated in a mass wedding. Nor indeed on a Los Angeles budget chain, known as the 99 Cents Only Stores, which paid the bill for 9 couples to marry in a famous romantic location.

In our culture 999 is of course the number we dial for the emergency services. Perhaps with a bit of forethought our “Less Than a Pound” stores might have been persuaded to pay for 9 unlucky couples to travel to their solicitors with a police escort in order to get an injunction and be divorced, as well as giving them each 99 pence. Okay, it was only a thought.

Monday, 7 September 2009

HE'S LEAVING


Millions of women across the nation were devastated this morning by news that the other man in their life is leaving. “I'd rather leave while we're in love, as the song says, … while we still delight in each other's company,” he explained.

No longer will he be there when they get up on a morning. Their cornflakes and toast will never taste the same again. Yes, Sir Terry Wogan today announced that he will retire from the Radio 2 Breakfast Show that he has hosted for 16 years, at the end of the year.

Friday, 4 September 2009

THREE GO ON HOLIDAY TOGETHER


This week there was news that an Indian Travel Agency, KV Tours and Travels, has launched a new line of holidays with the aim of saving marriages. Branded as divorce tourism packages, couples book to stay in hill station resorts or exotic foreign destinations and get to take a marriage counsellor with them. Somehow I don’t think there will be the demand for our own High Street agents to compete in such a market. That said I’ve long wondered why if people marry in exotic locations they don’t consider divorcing there too, and taking the lawyer along with them; honestly it would be no hardship from my point of view!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

NORTH/SOUTH DIVIDE


It was reported in the newspapers yesterday that Manchester law firm, Pannone, has revealed a North/South divide when it comes to the outcome of divorce cases. Its findings, based on trawling the results of some 1700 cases it has handled across the UK since 2007, allegedly show that courts in the North favour husbands and those in the South wives. How can this be? As someone who has only ever practised int' North, I am outraged. Is this another opportunity for a slur on the upper half of our country with far more to offer than images of “dark satanic mills,” flat caps and pigeons? Then I remembered that client who, once upon a time, displayed profound dignity and understanding when I indicated that she must find work and support herself.

“Nae problem hinny,” she responded, “After runnin’ round afta ‘im for twenty years, cookin ‘is meals, cleanin’ ‘is shoes and mekkin up ‘is bait box evry mornin’ then tendin’ to the ten babbies ar’ve borne ‘im, workin’ll be a doddle and a’ll get paid for it!”

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

TILL DEATH US DO PART


I know this is supposed to be a blog about divorce but that has to allow me to talk about marriage from time to time doesn’t it? I hope so because I just wanted to highlight the sad news reported by the BBC today that one half of Britain’s longest married couple has died. Frank and Anita Milford (both 101 this year) met at a YMCA dance and married 2 years later in 1928. When they were interviewed in 2007, at the time of their 79th wedding anniversary, they attributed the longevity of their marriage to being prepared to “give and take.”

Strangely, that’s also how some divorcees describe the outcome of their divorce settlements: “I gave and she took.”

That’s not what the Milfords meant, of course, and I hope that their sentiments have inspired and helped many other couples with their relationships. I would also wish to express my sincere condolences to Mrs Mitford and the couple’s family at this time of mourning.