Monday, 31 May 2010


“Families come in all shapes and sizes. This week is national family week, and as well as celebrating your own family life it is important to remember those families who are experiencing difficult times. As national family week gets underway, Resolution is launching a new online advice centre with information on the legal aspects of splitting up, as well as advice on parenting apart, sorting out money and arranging child maintenance. The advice centre is available via Resolution’s website at

The online advice centre is a useful tool with sections on the legal process of splitting up, tips on managing the relationship with your children post‐separation, as well as sections on sorting out child maintenance and other financial arrangements. The information is provided in a wealth of different formats, including video clips, factsheets and FAQs.

Sunday, 30 May 2010


Last week we received a lesson in British justice or maybe in the lack of it. We know that there is a well perpetuated myth that if you live together long enough you have the same rights as married couples on separation. It is only a myth and quite simply isn’t true.

Have we ever considered, however, what happens when you live apart long enough; 15 years (to the commencement of proceedings) to be exact? During that period and since the only person living in the still jointly owned home, paid the mortgage on it as well as all the other running costs and didn’t even claim maintenance from her former partner and co-owner for their children.

Now most right minded people, including the first two judges who heard the initial case and original appeal, might think that after what is now 17 years of paying the mortgage and other outgoings, the former cohabitant would be able to lay claim to a larger share of the equity in the home than their former partner who contributed nothing during that time. The Court of Appeal disagreed. Our law is clear, if unsatisfactory. At the time of the separation the parties had equal interests in the property. Nothing happened to displace those interests and the passage of time alone was insufficient to do so. Unlike in divorce proceedings there is no discretion on the part of the court to vary ownership of a jointly held property.

I can’t help thinking that the claimant in this case would have done better to have rented a Council property for 15 years and then exercised her right to buy at a discount.

Thursday, 20 May 2010


I heard Judith Holder (she of Grumpy Old Women fame) speak today at a Spring Lunch in aid of the County Durham Community Foundation. It was an hilarious and incisive insight into the weird and wonderful world of the older and not so older woman.

According to Judith they spend hours whingeing about the ironing and only 4 minutes doing it. They crave attention and seek it by sticking out from the crowd ; walking a rabbit on a leash for example. Their idea of a pin up idol is George Clooney but doing DIY or (can you imagine?) Jeremy Paxman complete in knitted jumper with guitar. They now think it acceptable to listen to Country and Western music and, of course, are entitled to complain (not moan) about everything. "Shoddy" and "poor workmanship" are their catch phrases. Oh and they get to wear big knickers and obsess about tidy sock drawers and piles of neatly pressed shirts.

Is it any wonder that the last decade has seen a rise in divorces amongst the over 50’s? Couple a grumpy woman with a grumpy old man and you have to admit it has the characteristics of a lethal combination.

Thursday, 13 May 2010


Guidelines for judges meeting children in family proceedings were issued last month. Reading them, I have to acknowledge how much more sophisticated proceedings are now than when, once upon a time and more years ago than I can properly remember, I first started to frequent court as an eager trainee. I do recall, however, one instance when a senior Judge insisted on seeing a young child alone in a dispute over custody. Both parents were claiming that the child wanted to live with them to the exclusion of the other and, the child having lived happily with the mother for several years, the Judge was determined to get to the bottom of the father’s claim that she had changed her mind. The meeting took place in the Judge’s Chambers in private with a Court Welfare Officer present. In due course the Judge emerged and triumphantly declared that he had solved the puzzle and the child would not be changing homes. It seemed that her father had attempted to bribe her with the promise of a holiday in the exotic location of Skegness, if she moved to live with him.

Of concern at the time, however, was then whether or not the child was scarred by her experience of seeing the Judge. Not at all. She was overheard giggling with delight at seeing Father Christmas in November rather than December, though she did ask her mother if he always wore black and purple rather than red when he wasn’t riding in his sleigh!

Friday, 7 May 2010


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May I suggest that the best way to make sense of the outcome of our election is to compare it with domestic relationships?

Ms Electorate used to be married to Mr Blue, for 18 long years in fact from 1979 until 1997. During that time she was oppressed, unemployed and denied health care that she badly needed. Greed and rudeness dominated their time together. By the time their marriage was dissolved, she was depressed and disillusioned.

However, along came Mr Red and together they bloomed. The marriage endured for 13 years, although it had its ups and downs. He went off to fight in foreign wars and mortgaged the family silver without telling her. Unsurprisingly and on the verge of bankruptcy, Ms Electorate began to think that maybe it was time to call time on that relationship too.

Lurking in the background was Mr Yellow; a perfect chap for a brief flirtation, but that was all it could ever be.

Then who should come back on the scene but Mr Blue. Talk about emotional mayhem, but smooth talker that he might have turned into, Ms Electorate couldn’t quite bring herself to forget.

Ultimately, and resisting the solution of pistols at dawn, Messrs Blue, Red and Yellow insisted that she choose between them. Ms Electorate however has matured over the years and would not be drawn. Can you blame her, but what happens next?

Thursday, 6 May 2010


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I thought the X Factor would be an appropriate title for an election night entry to this blog. However, I anticipate that you will already have visited your local polling station to place an X against the name of your favourite candidate. Accordingly what I really want to talk about is something else: the ex-factor.

It never ceases to please me when I hear about how well some people get on following their divorce, in some cases even when the proceedings themselves had been fraught or even hostile.

Conversely I can be re-consulted by people months or years after their divorce when an issue arises usually concerning child maintenance or contact.

Bewildered, my client complains that they used to get on with their ex but suddenly communication has become difficult and he or she is now behaving in a ridiculous manner. Careful probing invariably reveals an innocent trigger on one or the other’s part; perhaps a new relationship, a house-move, a different job even a hair cut or weight–loss. Jealousy, competitiveness, bitterness and envy can all come sweeping to the fore and nobody knows when.

The truth is that you may have been married to your ex but that was in the past. You don’t know them now. You have no idea where they have got to emotionally, whether they have moved on or if they are locked steadfastly in the past or somewhere in between. Never, ever assume that, at the same pace, you have both reached the same place or even planet. Assume anything and you assume at your peril.

Remember even if you don’t think you have the X Factor, there may be the ex to factor.

Sunday, 2 May 2010


Last week was apparently National Shed Week and, just for the occasion, Cuprinol announced the results of some research which not only showed that the average man spends a year of his life in his shed, but also that 77% of men have a shed. Traditionally it’s stated that one third of marriages end in divorce. By any chance are the marriages which end with divorce the same 33% of relationships where the man does not have a shed? If so, it would appear that Cuprinol has found an easy answer to domestic bliss- ladies save your marriage and get yourself some peace: buy him a shed for his birthday!