Thursday, 31 March 2011


The Family Justice Review published an interim report today. It’s 232 pages long and responses are required to the consultation questionnaire by 23rd June.

Buried deep in the report is the recognition that grandparents can have an important role to play in a child’s life and that, so far as practicable, a child should continue to have a relationship with them regardless of parental separation. There is also recognition that there should be a presumption in favour of shared parenting.

The report does not, as some journalists were initially suggesting, change the law and if anything recognises that family dynamics are inevitably complex especially following relationship breakdown, meaning that a one size fits all approach is never appropriate. Needless to say it is already being criticised by some fathers’ groups for failing to go far enough (sharing the responsibility of parenting isn’t the same as equalising time between parents) and sadly for grandparents it suggests that there will be a continuing need for them to seek leave of the court before making an application; so there are no deemed presumptions or recommended procedural changes there either. The trouble is the rhetoric always sounds fine; dealing with the reality, as any family justice professional will vouch, is a different matter.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011


I was recently sent a copy of “10Keys – A Woman’s guide for Navigating a Successful Financial Divorce”. It’s written by Meredith K. Bromfield, an investment advisor in the USA, who believes, as I do, in the need for making people feel special when undergoing a life changing event like divorce. Indeed she dedicates her book to “all the women who are facing tough situations.”

The book recognises that divorce can be an emotional and terrifying process during which important financial issues are resolved often at a time when one is least able to make rational decisions. It’s a short book in which the author gives women keys to help them at this difficult point in their lives.

The first part which deals with specific financial matters may be of limited relevance to clients in other jurisdictions where both the law and the provision of items such as health care are different. In the second part, however, the author sets out 10 keys for coping with the emotional side of divorce and these are of universal application. She not only identifies the key but also provides convincing pointers as to both why that key is necessary and how to implement the advice she is giving.

Ultimately she concludes that you must “Live, Love and Laugh” because “the best is yet to come.”

Saturday, 26 March 2011


The funeral of Elizabeth Taylor took place yesterday. For many years she entertained on screen with her amazing talent and good looks and then subsequently devoted herself to various needy causes. However she will also be remembered for her marriages (8 in total) and divorces of which there were 7. Definitely the kind of client her divorce lawyer must have loved.

In the same week we finally saw the form that will replace the current divorce petition on April 6th. As could only have been expected it has become a perfunctory tick box affair, although, and much to the alarm of many clients, one still has to pray that the marriage be dissolved. Comments received over the years have included:
Well I suppose if I got married in Church it’s only right that I pray for a divorce;
Is this right, surely it’s wrong to pray for something for yourself?
I thought God didn’t believe in divorce; will He really give her one?

Reducing our humble petition to something more reminiscent of a passport application, is, of course, intended to start the whole process in a somewhat easier fashion. If clients find the same thing, who knows I might even find a divorce doyen of my own to act for here in Darlington. In the meantime, I guess I’d better practise ticking some boxes myself; we all have a census form to complete tomorrow.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


I was recently asked why it is that marriage remains so popular in the North East of England (and with it divorce) when our counterparts in the South East are opting to live together rather than wed. It could be that Geordies are intrinsically more romantic, but, after watching this video on You Tube, I'm not convinced.

Sunday, 13 March 2011


As you know I’m a great believer that humour can relieve the stresses and strains of divorce. I’m not alone. Dan Rosandich, a fulltime cartoonist and illustrator, has put together an extensive collection of divorce cartoons which he licenses for use. Dan tells me that his cartoons have been used not only by lawyers for newsletters but also psychologists and counsellors who have used them to help clients understand certain aspects of their behaviour in a humorous way. I’m all in favour; laughter is a great healer.

Thursday, 10 March 2011


It may no longer be permissible in England and Wales but across the Atlantic in Illinois you can sue for breach of promise to marry.

The latest in the history of complaints filed for such involves two young lawyers in Chicago, who’d fixed their wedding for 21st August 2010. In time honoured tradition, approximately a month before, the groom went with friends to Las Vegas for a stag night or two. As the complaint that has been lodged says: the groom, “believing that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” did not confess upon his return that he had indulged in intimate relations with one Danielle. Perhaps that was hardly surprising because when the bride to be found out she clearly was none too happy and is now suing her ex whom she claims ultimately called off the marriage on 28 July 2010, and the next day blamed her for his indiscretions in Nevada.

In her complaint the would-have-been bride seeks damages of $62,814.71 for her out of pocket and non-refundable expenses in relation to the wedding, reception and honeymoon together with recompense for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Alleging breach of a fiduciary duty of implied fidelity the claimant asks the court to find that her ex’s behaviour was “extreme and outrageous” causing her to “suffer severe emotional distress.” By way of compensation she asks the court to award damages in excess of Cook County limits together with punitive damages and her legal fees.

I don’t know what the lady’s chances of success are but the claim is larger than many I’ve seen in divorce cases involving adultery. London might be gaining a reputation as the divorce capital of the world but Chicago must take some beating when it comes to compensation for breaking off engagements!

Friday, 4 March 2011


Outdoor Man and I have reached that regrettable stage in life when Little Girl now skis faster and more competently than we can. I recall our pride as doting parents when she took her first footsteps and later, when we had introduced her to the ski slopes our delight when she managed her first long run, snowploughing all the way.

It is therefore with a certain embarrassment that I have to record our apparent glee when on one occasion only during the course of our recent holiday Little Girl actually fell over. However and in time honoured tradition she picked herself up immediately, put in some of the most impressive turns I’ve ever seen as, head held high, she skied down the fall line and away from the offending impediment that had caught her off her guard.

There’s no substitute for keeping one’s dignity in the face of adversity, be it on the ski slopes or in divorce proceedings.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011


Whilst away last week I was waiting in a ski rental shop for Little Girl to be fitted out with skis and boots, when my attention was drawn to a skiing video displayed on a large screen. It began in traditional fashion with expert skiers making their way down through fields of deep powder. It quickly moved onto show more extreme skiers jumping over ever steeper cliffs and overhangs; all young, happy people out to enjoy themselves and with a clear passion for their sport.

Not every would-be ski-jumper made it safely down though; somersaults and back-flips with skis on aren’t exactly designed for secure landings.

Suddenly the camera moved in on one poor participant who had landed on his back. Instead of moving on to show more excessive moves, the film stayed with the victim, as the mountain rescue helicopter landed adjacent to him and then a paramedic administered fluid by drips, before the young man was stretchered off the mountain and flown to a nearby hospital.

It didn’t end there. Instead we were taken inside the operating theatre as a team of surgeons battled to save the skier’s life and finally there was an interview with the lead consultant, holding a section of vertebrae from a human skeleton.

It set me thinking. Health warnings may have started on cigarette packets but where will they stop? If this is what we can now expect in ski-rental shops, how long before we see something similar in bridal wear boutiques or suit hire shops? Films that take you from the magical wedding and honeymoon to domestic banality, followed by arguments and ultimately even divorce itself with a few stern words from a judge.