Saturday, 17 December 2011
Wednesday, 14 December 2011
Monday, 12 December 2011
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Thursday, 17 November 2011
Sunday, 13 November 2011
Thursday, 10 November 2011
The Supreme Court declared that an unmarried couple’s share in property can be adjusted after they separate, provided there is evidence of a common intention to adjust ownership, or such intention can be imputed.
Resolution said that although one in six couples in the UK currently live together without being married, huge numbers of people face distress, injustice and hardship because of out-of-date laws surrounding cohabitation combined with the “common law” marriage myth. Those affected include children who were not party to their parents' decision not to marry.
In making yesterday’s judgment, both Lord Collins and Lord Wilson were critical of the continuing failure of Parliament to legislate on cohabitation.
David Allison, Chair of Resolution, said: “The fact that it has taken four different hearings in four different places to determine the outcome highlights that the law for cohabitants is a mess and is in urgent need of reform. Despite the “common law” marriage myth, it is possible to live together with someone for decades and even to have children together, and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner’s welfare. That is simply wrong. The current situation for people who live together often creates injustice and hardship, and the law fails to reflect the way people are choosing to live their lives.”
Resolution is calling for new laws for couples who have lived together for five years or more – or for less time in cases of exceptional hardship. For cohabiting couples with children, the law would offer protection regardless of how long they have lived together.
These couples would have an automatic right to apply for certain financial orders if they separate. If a couple wished to opt out of this provision, they could do so by way of a written agreement. Such a law would prevent injustice by allowing the courts to recognise a cohabiting relationship and decide on an outcome that is fair and reasonable.
Saturday, 5 November 2011
It was Philip Larkin, who in his poem “This Be the Verse,” claimed:
“They f… you up your mum and dad
They may not mean to, but they do
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.”
Certainly Lord Justice Wall thought so too when he quoted Larkin in a judgment which he gave back in 2009, adding for good measure: “This mother and father are no different from many separated parents who make the damage to their children caused by their separation much worse by continuing their battles against each other in legal proceedings”
Thursday, 3 November 2011
An internet hub for the initiation of all divorce cases sounds marvellous but the Court Service has generally lagged behind the private sector so far as technology is concerned and one has to wonder whether there is the actual capability to develop this within the foreseeable future. Mind the Ministry of Justice is going to have to come up with something or it is shortly going to be swamped by litigants in person as we move ever closer to the withdrawal of legal aid from families in dispute at the time of relationship breakdowns.
The aim of the report is to be applauded, namely to find a quicker, simpler, more cost-effective system, but if a cultural shift is required for the sentiment of the report to be fulfilled, that will never happen overnight. So will anything much change? We'll just have to wait and see.
Sunday, 30 October 2011
Of course we all make mistakes and bad things invariably happen, regardless. Isn’t that what life’s about?
Saturday, 29 October 2011
Thursday, 13 October 2011
“I don’t like the look of my husband, so I’m taking him to the doctor’s this evening,” said one.
“I’ll come too,” said the other. “I can’t stand the sight of mine!”
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
“You mean the taxi driver” she said.
“Oh, is that what she does?”
“Yes and the distress at seeing him emerge from that taxi at the edge of the wood, when I thought we were both in serious training for the Great North Run will stay with me forever!”
“I am sorry,” I indicated.
Thursday, 6 October 2011
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
Top of the list is always the children and sharing the parenting of their little-ones rather than creating divisions reaps benefits for the whole family. They may be rare, but some couples manage to continue to share days together with their children and I’ve even known some still take a family holiday.
Pets too are capable of sharing. Fido doesn’t always split his time between houses but one partner can take their turn at dog-walking especially when they want a companion for a long distance ramble.
Then there are keepsakes. The prize trophy won together in the best kept garden competition transposes from mantelpiece to mantelpiece every six months.
The timeshare too is a popular choice. With the potential for a loss on sale, many couples decide to retain their joint ownership and take their holidays and pay the fees in rotation.
Insurance policies are often continued on joint lives for joint benefit especially if there is the prospect of a large final bonus or life cover to benefit children perhaps to defray inheritance tax or help meet their upkeep.
Fields can provide grazing for one person’s sheep part of the year and be ploughed for the other’s crops the remainder.
A barn or other building in need of renovation is often continued as a joint project, enabling gains to be maximised and divided.
Cars are sometimes shared, perhaps where one person works at the end of a public transport route and has no need for the family car during the week but needs it for occasional weekend trips or to facilitate contact arrangements.
Lawyers never like this but there are even couples who keep a joint bank account for ease in managing one household’s finances and on the basis that they have agreed the ground rules for operating the account.
The one that always amazes me though is when someone tells me that although the marriage has broken down and they find it intolerable to live with their spouse, they intend to remain in partnership to run their business together. Some never manage to do so and the business relationship breaks down amidst the same rancour as the marriage, but others succeed in building vibrant, thriving enterprises together. As one entrepreneur told me: “A business partnership is like marriage in that you are tied together by a contract and money. Unlike marriage though, you are not expected to share a home with your business partner.”
Sunday, 2 October 2011
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Monday, 26 September 2011
Thursday, 22 September 2011
Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Originally uploaded by zimpenfish
Dear Agony Aunt
I have been in a loveless marriage for the last 10 years and had finally made an appointment with a solicitor in order to start divorce proceedings. I weigh 20 stones and have read this week that divorcing will mean I gain even more pounds. What should I do; I can’t continue to live with my husband but also can’t risk damaging my health by adding to my obesity?
Despite what you have read in the newspapers, the study which was undertaken by Ohio University actually found that whilst marital transition causes women to gain weight following marriage, it is men who are more likely to add to their girth on divorce. In contrast most women actually lose weight dealing with the trauma of separation. Therefore you should go for it girl, get to that appointment and shed your fat!
Dear Agony Aunt
I am a forty something male, recently separated and piling on the stones in the run up to my divorce. How do I cure this? Should I ask my wife to come back?
Dear Roly Poly
Definitely not. Just buy yourself a recipe book, cancel the takeaways and get yourself down to the gym. Your good wife left you for a reason and now you have to learn how to look after yourself properly and without recourse to convenience foods laden with calories.
PS. To all my readers out there – anyone for doughnuts?
Monday, 22 August 2011
Many people accuse lawyers of using incomprehensible words and phrases not otherwise employed in the daily use of the English language. Herewiths and hereuntobefores are accordingly and justifiably frowned upon. Resolution has, therefore, worked hard to try to deliver for family lawyers precedents for courts orders and deeds that whilst unambiguous, remain clear and so far as possible are written in everyday English. That said even those precedents have struggled to rid themselves of useful catch-alls like wheresoever, howsoever and whatsoever.
The other evening I found myself in the right place at the wrong time and was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement as a result. I believe the person who handed it to me must have been from Mars or some other galactic species. Gone were the “howsoever wheresoevers” and yet I fully understood that never must word of what I had seen or heard be divulged when I read: “Forever anywhere in the Universe.” I wonder what the family courts would think if solicitors began to adopt that kind of terminology when drafting orders?
Wednesday, 17 August 2011
It’s much more likely, of course, that one half of a couple will spring a separation on their unsuspecting partner rather than a wedding. How many times do divorce lawyers find themselves attending a client who only found out their soul-mate was leaving from a note on the mantelpiece or kitchen table? Even worse there are some cowards who, whilst continuing to live with their spouse, get their solicitor to send a letter for them. Not only does that give a whole new meaning to the phrase “a solicitor’s letter,” it reflects badly on the client and lawyer who act in such a way and in so doing show a complete lack of understanding of the effect on the unsuspecting partner.
Wednesday, 10 August 2011
Wednesday, 20 July 2011
My thanks to Next Media Animation for this video and its complete explanation of the reasons for this latest celebrity divorce, Taiwanese style. According to William Shakespeare, Mark Anthony was once heard to say "There's beggary in the love that can be reckon'd," but of course he wasn't talking to J'Lo at the time.
Tuesday, 19 July 2011
I can get rather bored with news coverage when it deluges you with the same story day after day after day. The latest phone intercepting scandal involving the now defunct News of the World, however, reminded me of the client who, once upon a time, called to see me and triumphantly whipped from her handbag a polythene bag which she had carefully labelled “Exhibit A.”
“What’s this?” I asked as I peered closely at something which to this day I am still convinced was a press-stud.
“A bugging device,” she whispered. “I found it under my telephone!”
Now I am a solicitor, not an agent for Her Majesty’s Secret Service, so I have to confess that my knowledge of these things is severely limited. However, I can assure you that there was no resemblance at all to those small sinister objects you see James Bond remove from hotel rooms, on the big screen.
Who put it there?” I enquired with interest, for my client was newly separated.
“My husband, of course,” she replied. “He gave the game away when he was helping me move in and I heard his hacking cough!”
Friday, 15 July 2011
Thursday, 14 July 2011
Friday, 8 July 2011
Tuesday, 28 June 2011
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill had its first reading in Parliament last week and now it’s scheduled for a second reading tomorrow. Usually when a Government has tried to rush through legislation it’s been to deal with urgent issues like terrorism. On this occasion am I being unkind or does the Government’s untimely haste have an ulterior motive? Perhaps if the bill can be hurried through quickly enough it will make it onto the statute book before there’s time for the public to lobby their MP. After all it is this insultingly-named piece of drafting that seeks to withdraw legal aid for family cases. It is the punishment of those offenders daring to try to cream off state funds to rescue themselves from an unhappy marriage; sentencing many to a lifetime of penury because they can no longer afford a lawyer to argue their case for financial provision and all for the withdrawal of legal aid funding that for many was repayable in any event, once funds had been recovered from their spouse or the family home sold. Quickie legislation to oust funding for quickie divorces.
Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Under the cuts, thousands of vulnerable parents going through the trauma of divorce and separation will be forced to struggle by without legal help – creating a serious risk that many children will lose contact with one of their parents or be subjected to unfair financial arrangements that harm their upbringing.
“Where there are serious problems between parents, stripping away affordable justice will force families into situations where children simply lose contact with one of their parents, which is wholly unacceptable in a civilized society,” said David Allison, Chair of Resolution.
“The cuts will also mean that, separated parents with primary responsibility for caring for the children may not be able to obtain a fair financial deal from the former partner.”
Under the planned cuts, large groups of vulnerable people will no longer be eligible for legal aid. The only option available to families who still qualify for legal aid will be mediation, which is a valuable non-court option but not suitable for all and requires both parties to voluntarily agree to take part.
“The Government seems determined to turn a deaf ear to the misery that these cuts could create for thousands of children and families. Not to mention the long term impact the cuts will have on wider society and the costs that will transfer to other state funded services as people develop other difficulties such as mental health issues, as they seek to work through these things on their own,” said David Allison.
“These cuts are clearly ill-considered and rushed. The consultation process has been the latest in a line of similar coalition government fiascos. It received an unprecedented 5,000 responses according to the Ministry of Justice’s own figures. It is inconceivable that these responses have been given full and proper consideration.”
The volume of responses to the consultation is not the only indicator that the proposals are deeply flawed. Both the Justice Select Committee and the Family Justice Review have expressed concerns about the Government’s plans.
The Justice Select Committee called on the Government to rethink its decision to use domestic abuse as the only means of accessing free legal advice and help, and the Government’s own Family Justice Review has warned of the potential impact on the courts of families forced to represent themselves.
“It will become virtually impossible for many struggling families to get legal aid when going through the pain of separation. For many, losing family legal aid will be a cruel and unaffordable blow,” said David Allison.
Resolution warns that the Government’s proposals could be the final nail in the coffin for many legal aid providers, leaving too few lawyers able to help the small numbers of vulnerable people who would still be protected by family legal aid.
The cuts are likely to create spiralling costs for taxpayers and chaos in the court system as increasing numbers of people, stripped of their right to legal aid and affordable justice, try to represent themselves.
Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Little Girl has been sitting exams for a variety of GCSE modules this month. I suspect the prospect of re-sits may be preying on her mind though, as tonight she advised me that there is a new group on Facebook called, “I Enjoy Exams SO Much I usually Take Them Twice.”
It set me thinking, is there perhaps also a group out there entitled “I Enjoy Weddings SO Much I’ve Been Divorced Six Times,” and if not, should there be?
Sunday, 12 June 2011
The first was the saga of France banning the mention of Facebook and Twitter on television. There has, of course, been a growth in divorces involving the use of social media networks. Indeed I have known clients complain about the amount of time their spouse spends on such sites; I have also been involved in cases where through such sites one half of a married couple has re-kindled a relationship with someone from their past or where, in a blatant and yet cowardly announcement, one spouse has made clear in their status or tweet that they are not where or even with whom they told their spouse they would be! The French authorities, however, seemingly have little interest in the double lives of their citizens and are instead looking to ban covert advertising whereby presenters send viewers to a specific social media networking page. Nonetheless could such a step help to reverse increasing divorce statistics? I don’t think so. Unless they suffer from amnesia and need reminding about the existence of these sites by the large screen in the corner of their living room every so often, worried wives or suspicious husbands are clearly going to continue the task of internet stalking.
The second story concerned a British couple who are planning to take two years out of their ordinary lives to marry in thirty different countries around the world before returning to the UK to go through an official ceremony. Now it is often said that marriage is quick and easy in this country and divorce too long and difficult. I wonder what would happen if it became a uniform requirement that all couples take two years to marry and traipse around the globe whilst doing so? Certainly divorce would begin to look quick and easy in comparison!
Friday, 3 June 2011
Or do you know someone who has separated from their spouse or partner?
Do you know anyone who was successful in obtaining Olympic tickets?
Could there perhaps be a national scandal here somewhere?
Thursday, 2 June 2011
Now that’s all well and good if your neighbours are offering to cook and they are congenial company. What happens though if you don’t like the folks next door? After all it could even be your ex living there (these arrangements do happen, believe me)? You won’t have spoken for months and you know they can’t even cook toast without burning it. Oh well one of you has 12 months to find somewhere else to live.
Sunday, 29 May 2011
Take That fever has reputedly been gripping the North East after Gary, Robbie and the gang launched their new tour from the Stadium of Light in Sunderland.
You have no idea how much I enjoyed typing that. Usually when a divorce lawyer discusses Take That Fever it’s because they’ve been deluged with issues concerning the division of house contents or, even worse, had an incident of domestic violence to advise on.
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
“I’ve been having a relationship with another woman for a few years now,” he began, “It’s now finished and I’ve confessed everything to my wife.”
“And she’s got angry and frightened you?” I queried.
"No, it’s the ex girlfriend; she’s threatening to go to the newspapers.”
“Are they likely to publish?” I enquired.
“Look I’m not so bothered about that, I just want to be really famous,” he replied. “I work in a bank, play football at weekends and I’ve even been in the audience of a Top Gear show, so I thought I’d have all the credentials for a truly super injunction.”
“Will trying to stop publication grant you the fame and publicity you are clearly so readily seeking?” I asked.
“Yes, if the whole mad world starts tweeting about me instead!”
Wednesday, 11 May 2011
Friday, 6 May 2011
Wednesday, 4 May 2011
Monday, 2 May 2011
Sunday, 1 May 2011
Thursday, 21 April 2011
After 28 years and 4 months, it’s time to call it a day and I’m retiring as a partner in Latimer Hinks. I’ve always been sceptical about those who withdraw from public life on the basis they want to spend more time with their families. Now I’m of that age where I suddenly understand what they mean.
A business partnership is often described as a marriage in which you are tied together in a common purpose, through good and bad times. If that description is accurate then it must mean that I have been going through some kind of divorce, albeit amicably. In my case, however, I have 7 spouses. Imagine that, especially in a country that frowns on polygamy!
My thanks to all my colleagues at Latimer Hinks who have been working hard to make the last few weeks as easy as they could and also for their best wishes and support over the years.