Sunday, 30 October 2011


The clocks went back last night and half the population took advantage to spend an extra hour in bed whilst the other half got up early. Did anyone take advantage of the extra hour of rolled back time to do something completely different?

So many clients going through a divorce are prone from time to time to express regret about their marriage: “If only; if I’d known then what I know now; I wouldn’t make the same mistake again; if only I could turn the clock back.”
Of course we all make mistakes and bad things invariably happen, regardless. Isn’t that what life’s about?

But how many of us really would make different choices or could behave differently if we turned back time and were living our lives again?

Saturday, 29 October 2011


Did I hear it correctly? Did tomorrow’s forecast really mirror how some people can feel after divorce or separation: “Dreary at first, becoming cheerful again later!”

Whatever happened to the usual: “Overcast with sunny spells”?

Thursday, 13 October 2011


When you live in the countryside, many of the facilities that urban dwellers take for granted are denied to you. One advantage, apart from the mobile library service, is that your doctor can not only prescribe medication but also dispense it. So it was this evening that I went to the Surgery to collect a prescription.

Whilst queuing is not generally required, I did find myself behind a long-married couple. As he discussed his ailments with the member of staff on duty, his wife turned to me. “Which desk do you think I hand him over at?” she asked, motioning with her head in turn to the reception and dispensing counters.

I must have looked quizzical, because she then pointed to a postcard stuck on the wall. It showed two elderly ladies gossiping; above their heads were text balloons:
“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!”

Finally I have confirmation that clients are more likely to see a doctor about relationship issues than a solicitor!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


This weekend’s report of the marathon runner in Northumberland who cheated when he dropped out of the race after 20 miles then caught a bus to complete the race and ended up clinching a place on the podium, reminded me of a story a client told me, once upon a time. She came into my office in her running kit. Every few minutes she would stretch or alternatively start jogging on the spot and, whilst doing so, complained that her husband had cheated on her although she’d only caught him out the once.

“Do you know the lady involved?” I asked.
“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.

“Oh, there’s no need for that, it’s done wonders for my fitness levels. He used to take off like lightening and I could never understand how he maintained the pace. We were like the hare and the tortoise to begin with, but I tell you what it’s certainly made me increase my speed, just trying to keep him in sight. Not that I managed it until that day when, my leg muscles working to perfection, I finally saw him getting into her taxi just over the first hill! ”

Thursday, 6 October 2011


As someone who has always played second fiddle to Outdoor Man’s love for his boats (of which there have been several during our long marriage), I would like to be able to say that I have some sympathy for Mandy Fleming who was jailed today for sinking her ex-husband’s yacht. I well know that constant expenditure on electronic compasses, rope, sails and other gizmos can be a source of frustration when, after all, the funds could have been spent on bouquets of flowers and other expressive gestures. But isn’t it a universal truth that men need their toys? Without them, what else would they have to polish?

More to the point why, if you are estranged, would you seek to entertain your new lover on board your husband’s yacht? Further, having done so, isn’t sinking the vessel somewhat excessive? I'd always thought that cutting up his shirts was plummeting to the depths; clearly worse wrongs can be inflicted.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


Financial settlements are intended to reflect fairness; the division of assets takes into account various factors set out in law including needs and resources, and measured against what is invariably referred to as a “yardstick of equality.” Both spouses are meant to get their “fair share” although often there can be a sense of losing out when one or both parties’ innate sense of fairness may not correlate with the law itself. Not every separation needs to end in bitterness and an acrimonious court fight. Indeed where a couple can remain amicable, I never fail to be surprised at all the things that can be shared between them. With an increasing number of couples resolving issues by mediation or collaboration, sharing rather than dividing invariably finds potential for discussion, although it can only be properly embraced by those who are fully committed.

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


An article in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday has had UK divorce lawyers and their clients reeling with shock at the revelation that six figure mark-ups have been applied to solicitors’ fees for some of Baroness Shackleton's clients. However the explanation that she is slack with her time-keeping and makes herself available to clients out of hours appears to have been accepted and, moreover, her clients are reported as being happy with the service they have received. I guess when you are worth millions, there’s no need to worry about how to pay for your legal services.

For most people however costs are a major concern and they should be reassured by the fact that they are entitled from the outset to a full explanation of how costs will be calculated. Whilst it is always difficult to give a fixed quote in relation to cases arising from matrimonial issues, clients should expect to be given an estimate of the range of costs and a warning if an initial costs estimate is likely to be exceeded. Most family lawyers pride themselves on being transparent about their charging arrangements. Mark-ups, whether of the magnitude reported or otherwise, are not generally applied. On my own part, I endeavour to bill clients at monthly intervals and purely in relation to the time actually spent; that way there are no hidden shocks or mark-ups at the end of a matter.