Thursday, 22 October 2009


One of the pleasing touches I’ve invariably found in hotels in the Swiss and Austrian Alps is a newsletter on the breakfast table with a quote for the day. It is in such circumstances that I recently came across this offering by Denis Waitley, the American writer and motivational speaker. I believe it’s an entirely appropriate quote for a blog that seeks to delve into the complications of human relationships, though I make no comment on the accuracy or otherwise of the sentiments expressed:

Losers make promises they often break. Winners make commitments they always keep.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


Latimer Hinks withdrew from legal aid work in 1998 and numerous other firms across the country have taken the same step. Resolution has warned that new fixed fees for family legal aid work published today by the Ministry of Justice are likely to mean a further exodus of lawyers from family legal aid and so undermine access to justice for ordinary families.

The new fees represent a further cut in legal aid remuneration at a time when family legal aid is already in crisis. The number of family legal aid practices in the country has dramatically dropped, from 4,500 in 2000 to 2,800 in 2006.

“The potential of these new fees to cause substantial and long term damage to the provision of family legal aid for separating families has been grossly underestimated,” said David Emmerson, Chair of Resolution’s Legal Aid Committee, strongly urging the government to reconsider the fees for private law cases before they come into effect in October 2010,

“Some of these fees represent a cut of more than 40 percent to hourly rates that have already remained static for the last ten years. Faced with this uneconomic scenario there is a very real danger that firms will walk away from legal aid work, further undermining access to justice.”

Lawyers estimate that for a very simple child contact case taking around 14 hours a legal aid firm would currently receive £960 on the basis of the hourly rate. The new fixed fee would be just £471 a cut of more than 50 percent.

Similarly a legal aid firm managing a straightforward divorce finance case which goes to full hearing, would be paid £2,106 at present; this will reduce to £1,299 under the new fixed fee regime, a cut of almost 40 percent.

Thursday, 15 October 2009


That the climate is changing there appears to be no doubt. Scientists, however, seem divided as to the causes and also the solutions. As for politicians, without them would green or eco taxes have been invented? There seems to be an emerging policy to say that it’s to save the planet, in anticipation that everyone will pay without protest. I’m surprised they haven’t started to tax divorce, well not overtly anyway, although there is already VAT on the solicitor’s bill. Mind single parent families and relationship breakdowns are like gas guzzlers, only a thousand times worse, the multitude of sins they get blamed for. Come to think of it how long will it be before someone tries to make a connection between the rising number of divorces and global warming? There must be a scientific model somewhere, showing a correlation.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


Stop hating your ex must sound like a tall order for many people, but this book by René Ashton seeks to show you how. “I wanted someone to tell me how in the world I was to escape the grips of this ferocious animal wreaking havoc in my life,” she writes; she’s not describing her ex, however, but instead her anger.

René forwarded me a copy of the book in advance of its US publication date last week. I’m sure that it will only be a matter of time before it’s available in the UK too. More like a work-book than a reference source, it’s written in a very down to earth style and pushes the reader onward in a mission of self-healing asking for deliberated responses to questions posed, even providing lined pages for the replies.

“You cannot change your ex. Try as you may. Manipulate as you may. Punish, kick, scream, whatever your tactic, it won’t work”, she reminds us. “The only thing you can change is yourself to make things different.” Through the book, she endeavours to train the reader how to let go and draws on her own experience in illustrating the depths to which the broken hearted and wronged can sink but also how they can move on.

René clearly feels strongly that children should have the right to be co-parented properly. She spares no punches when she identifies those careless or vindictive comments that can cause untold harm and urges the reader to “talk to a professional (not your kids), unload on your friends (not your kids).”

If you feel caught in a trap of negativity or denial as a result of relationship breakdown, it could help but you mustn’t expect any sympathy. “You have the capacity to change,” and that’s what the author wants you to do.

Friday, 9 October 2009


John Cleese kicked off his “How to Finance Your Divorce Tour” in Norway last weekend. He’s reported as telling his audience that he’d fallen on hard times because he had been ordered to pay $20 million to a woman he believed to be “the special love child of Bernie Madoff and Heather Mills.” Ouch! Divorce can have a tendency to bring out the bitter side of people as well as their ingenuity when they look to raise the necessary finances.

It all reminded me of once upon a time when I acted for a client whom I shall kindly describe as totally eccentric.

“You can call me Mr Praline,” he said when we first met, after he’d stepped across my room in three long and exaggerated strides, bowler hat perched precariously on the top of his head. He was a strange client; not easy to take instructions from when every few seconds he’d change the subject and yell out: “And now for something completely different.”

He was very fond of pets, I recall, with a fish called Wanda (or was it Eric?) and a large snake he referred to as Monty.

When settlement terms were ordered by the court, he completely broke down, banging a dead parrot on the desk and claiming to have to go back and live in a cardboard box. However, he paid what was required with borrowed funds, and then decamped to work as a lumberjack to pay for it all!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


This novel by Anne Bronte was the token classic in my summer reading list. If there was ever a story that demonstrated the inequalities that used to exist between the sexes this is it. It’s set in the early part of the 19th Century when it definitely wasn’t considered acceptable for a husband to binge-drink and form sexual liaisons with other women, but some did anyway. Whilst divorce is actually mentioned once, it wasn’t really an option and nor was running away easy when your husband controlled all your finances and you’d promised to love, honour and obey him before an all-knowing God.

Even without a divorce though the story has a happy ending, or at least it does for the wife. The husband however dies from his excesses with a conviction that an angelic hereafter is not to be his destiny.

There are times when you realise just how much society has changed in the last 200 years and yet also how little.

Sunday, 4 October 2009


In September I completed training in collaborative practice. Six solicitors in Tees Valley, along with many others across the North East region and the country nationally, are now offering a new way to divorce. It’s a revolutionary approach which helps reduce the emotional cost on couples and their children when families split. Instead of dealing through solicitors, the new approach, called collaborative law, involves couples working with their solicitors, all together in the same room, to reach agreement without the need for costly and stressful court battles.

In 2007, 128,000 marriages in the United Kingdom ended in divorce. Sadly, family breakdown is a fact of life. Unfortunately, the consequences are often devastating for spouses and their children and can lead to personal trauma and turmoil. Members of Resolution, a 5700-strong group of family lawyers, commit to minimising the financial and emotional pain it causes. We do this by adopting a conciliatory approach which puts the needs of any children involved first. Collaborative law is a natural extension of this idea. By all sitting together, we ensure that couples stay in control of their own futures, instead of leaving decisions to a judge in a courtroom. The focus is on solutions rather than confrontation. Where it has been practised elsewhere in the UK, it has achieved remarkable results. I’m confident that it’s going to do the same in the Tees Valley area too

Both parties and their lawyers pledge to work together to negotiate an agreement without going to court. If an agreement cannot be reached, and court is seen as the only solution, the lawyers involved cannot act for either party in the subsequent court case. This means that everyone involved (including the lawyers!) has an incentive to settle the case.

More details are given on the Resolution website and also on You Tube by Mogers Solicitors and on Richard Sharp’s Blog that has been titled Family Law Collaborative Blog.