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


Government plans to cut family legal aid represent an attack on childhood and the family, said family law association Resolution today as the Government published the response to its legal aid consultation.

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


The wedding album is probably one of the most sentimental souvenirs of any marriage. So much so that even during a divorce some couples will argue over who should get to keep it afterwards. However, who takes those photographs can be ever so important not only as to their quality but as one story in the local press yesterday suggested, even as to the newly married couple’s future happiness.

Sadly it seems that one North East couple may have made the wrong choice when they wed back in April 2008. Not only did they pick a photographer who made the news last year after leaving numerous couples distraught by the standard of the photographs at their weddings, but the same photographer subsequently ran off with the bride! Even worse he’s been in court this week for threatening behaviour towards the groom after trying to provoke a fight with him.

“Come on bop me on the nose, you know you want to; I deserve it,” is not however what it is alleged he said.

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


Last week two stories captured my attention:

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


Do you know someone who was divorced recently?
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


Great news, we are getting another extra Bank Holiday next year too; this time it’s to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen's accession to the throne. I have to confess I could get really used to these 4 day working weeks. According to reports today there will be another display of pageantry as Her Majesty glides down the Thames on the Royal Barge. The rest of us, however, are being encouraged to participate in what has to be another Big Society idea; yes it is being proposed that we should eat lunch with our neighbours!

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.