Thursday, 22 July 2010


When a new client tells you that he’s come to see you because he has always viewed you as his family solicitor, your eyebrows rise. When he then tells you that you divorced his grandfather and then his mother, you know you’ve attained a certain age!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


Watching on television, as the US President, Barack Obama, and our Prime Minister, David Cameron, gave a press conference at the White House yesterday, you could be forgiven for thinking that in describing the special relationship between our countries they were really talking about marriage. They described the length and strength of the ties between us, supporting each other through tricky times (Iraq and Afghanistan sprung instantly to mind); also the respect for each other, especially as each goes down different routes in seeking to tackle the effects of a shortage of money. They even referred to the depth of feeling when one causes the other anguish; BP and the Gulf of Mexico were mentioned. Two allies, stalwarts together and well past their honeymoon period.

Nonetheless as any cynic, historian or even family lawyer knows, that still doesn’t mean there can never be a divorce

Monday, 12 July 2010


I appeared as a guest on BBC Radio Tees this morning, ready to voice my opinions on the news stories of the day. Of course the mid morning hosts, Neil and Diane, came up with a celebrity linked family law story and I found myself being asked about the recent split of Leona Lewis and her longstanding boyfriend Lou Al-Chamaa. It seems he is demanding a £1.5million payout for helping her to become famous and believes that as a common law husband he is so entitled.

Of course, I don’t know the full facts of that particular case but it was a great opportunity to re-iterate once again that couples who live together rather than marry, potentially have no rights whatsoever against their partner when they split up. Common law marriage remains a myth in English law.

Sunday, 11 July 2010


Events last week highlighted the dangers that can follow the ending of a relationship.

The news was dominated by the story of Raoul Moat allegedly shooting at his ex-partner, killing her new boyfriend and severely wounding a police officer, leading to the grim spectacle of armed police tracking him down in Northumberland.

In the same week Akmol Miah, a 15 year old boy, was given a life sentence at the Old Bailey for setting fire to his ex-girlfriend’s home after she’d ditched him, killing both her and her sister.

Whatever is happening here? Is the country filled with dumped maniacs fuelled by the passion of vengeance? Should would-be partners be asking to see the results of mental health and CRB checks before dating, or for police protection when ditching?

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


To divorce in England and Wales immediately following separation requires one to prove that their spouse has committed adultery or alternatively behaved unreasonably. If allegations are made which are not accepted, then as the spouse who receives the petition you can file an answer defending it. Protocol requires solicitors to discourage clients from embarking on contested divorce suits where appropriate and unless the allegations made in the petition are a complete fiction, it is wise to be wary.

Once upon a time I recall a client coming to me with a divorce petition that had just been served on him. In it his wife had alleged that in January he had promised to undertake long-needed repairs to their home as soon as possible but when he failed to do so the marriage broke down and they separated.

“It’s totally ridiculous,” my client explained. “I have to defend, there’s no truth in it.”

“Did you make a promise?” I asked

“Yes but to do the work ASAP.”

“Isn’t that what the petition says?” I enquired.

“No it says as soon as possible; I meant after September, August possibly!”

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


At first glance a headline like “More Men Being Forced into Marriage” might make you think that Alpha females, afraid of being left on the shelf, are now asserting their desire to wed on somewhat less committed and easygoing boyfriends. The truth is far scarier. According to the Forced Marriage Unit its helpline was used by 65% more men in 2009 than 2008 and it wants to raise awareness of the issue because naively we assume that the victims are always women. Apparently men too are vulnerable and indeed 14% of cases reported last year related to males perhaps to secure a visa, or to preserve a family’s reputation. 80 cases have already been reported to the unit this year and some involve the sexuality of the man in question, with his family forcing marriage to hide the fact that he is homosexual. The Unit believes that it is harder for men to seek assistance than women and is urging professionals who work with young people to be vigilant. This is not a situation where divorce is the answer. Instead our law now permits protection orders to be obtained to prevent a marriage taking place or to protect a person when it has and the Unit offers confidential advice.

Monday, 5 July 2010


Tempted by the adjoining spa and pool, I have recently joined a gym. It is noticeable how many husbands come into the gym to work out, whilst their wives prefer the attractions of the Jacuzzi. I regularly have the pool to myself; it seems there are only a few couples seeking to swim that extra length together.