Wednesday, 23 November 2011


Divorce petitions are frequently based on allegations of unreasonable behaviour. What constitutes unreasonable behaviour is a subjective test, based on the experience of the person seeking the divorce. Examples given can frequently come in trends and as a result of the findings of a survey commissioned by Unilever this week, I predict that there will soon be an influx of divorce applications incorporating allegations to do with domestic bathing arrangements.

The days of “Save water; shower with a friend,” are now behind us. Sadly it would seem that we spend so long in the shower that we would actually use less hot water and, therefore, energy taking a bath. There is now clear scope for a green campaign directed at couples bathing together, with the added bonus that throwing in Archimedes’ Principle means two can bathe in less water and yet it will still be the same depth!

There has to be a snag, and of course there is, because two fully grown adults quite simply don’t fit comfortably in the average home bath tub! As a result any such campaign will need a major re-think and the best Judith’s Divorce can come up with, is “Don’t pull the plug; leave the bubbles for the mug.”

Yes divorce lawyers will potentially be inundated with claims that one half of the happy couple always insisted on being first into the tub, leaving the soap to dissolve and only a murky grime for the other half to wash in.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


Once upon a time, I saw a client who was looking to divorce his wife. I asked him the reason but was taken by surprise when he told me that their whole marriage had been dictated by the state of their bed and there was now no choice but to bring the relationship to an end. Was he sure, I enquired, suggesting that perhaps it might be less painful to change the bed.

“No,” he said, “It’s the mattress you see. When we were first married we had a spring coil version and we bounced along together happily. Then a few years back, we changed it for memory foam. Now she never forgets; I’m harangued day and night for everything I’ve done and everything I’ve not done.”

“Well if that’s the case, surely a change of bed will help,” I persisted.

“Oh, we’ve done that,” he replied, “But we got a waterbed this time and I can’t sleep on it because every time I fall asleep she tries to drown me!”

Oh dear, do you think it would have been more civilised if they had simply drifted apart?

Sunday, 13 November 2011


The Co-op is going to offer family law legal services as soon as it can obtain the necessary licence from the SRA. Its recent press release suggested that it would be looking to recruit lots of family lawyers as a result.

“Is it good news other than for those lawyers whose positions might be at risk with the demise of legal aid?” Of course it is, anything with the potential for increasing standards on the high street is always good.

“Why is the Co-op choosing to go down this route, surely it has no previous expertise in the area?” Maybe not, but it has already recruited well established lawyers to head up and advise on the initiative and don’t forget that it has a long history of offering services at times of human misery as its funeral parlours already demonstrate.

“Okay but what’s in it for customers?” (Note we no longer call them clients) Well there won’t be any old fashioned “divis” but we can probably expect a move towards fixed pricing rather than hourly rates although I don’t anticipate that we shall see any two for one offers.

“How do the traditional high street firms feel?” Oh they are over the moon. To know that in the future their opposition has to live up to their label of co-operative, is like manna from heaven for those solicitors and their clients used to being dragged through the court process. Maybe collaborative law will expand even further!

Thursday, 10 November 2011


Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision in the Kernott v Jones case again highlighted the urgent need to reform the law affecting couples that live together, according to Resolution.

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


There was what I understand to have been a hoax circulating on the Internet over the course of the last week, claiming that the results of a study from the California Parenting Institute show that every parenting style causes children to grow up into adults with problems, becoming “profoundly flawed and joyless human beings.” Regardless of whether or not the parents are over protective or permissive, their children suffer feelings of bitterness and isolation throughout adulthood. Sham it may have been but perhaps it caught so many people out because there could almost be a resonance of truth about it.

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


The Family Justice Review was published today and despite the reports in a number of our national newspapers, one can’t help thinking it could be a “bit of a damp squib.” An opportunity has certainly been lost to propose any radical changes to the law and one has to wonder whether the money will ever be made available to follow the recommendations that are made. It’s all very well and good for the report to say that care cases should be resolved within a period of six months, but with the court system already stretched beyond belief are extra judicial hours going to be provided to achieve this and will staff- cuts at the associated agencies on whose reports the courts rely be halted?

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.

That part of the report that appears to have really incensed the media is inevitably the about turn from the interim report where a legal presumption in favour of shared care of children as between Mum and Dad was touted. The Chair of the review, David Norgrove, appears to have anticipated this would be the case for I note that in his foreword he acknowledges that “some will be disappointed by our decision to recommend against a legal presumption of shared parenting.” Whilst he stresses that shared parenting should be encouraged, he qualifies this with “where this is in the child’s best interests,” and goes on to explain that the opinion of the review body was that shared parenting is best achieved by “parental education” and “information.”

“Progress depends,” he writes, “on a general social expectation of the full involvement of both parents in the lives of their children before separation, not on changes in the law.”

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.