Thursday, 28 February 2013


So the media today would have us believe that divorce lawyers overcharge, based on a report issued by the Legal Ombudsman.
Not all the comments made in the report are being repeated in the media.  Whilst it transpires that complaints to the Legal Ombudsman are higher for divorce than any other area of law, the report acknowledges that “divorce can be a deeply emotional event” and that “strong emotions can naturally colour and shape the customer’s approach to their legal service.” Indeed it is stated that “Often," and I stress that word “often,” “lawyers are able to guide customers sensitively through the emotional and practical minefield that is the divorce process.” Conversely it states “there are some occasions where the quality of service falls short.”
The main reason for complaint would appear to relate to costs. All solicitors must give their clients an estimate of likely costs when they are first consulted, but this is not normally a fixed quote. In circumstances where the divorce process, particularly when coupled with issues concerning children, money or property can become very complex (not least because it involves two people often with very different views as to what the outcome must be) the Ombudsman stresses that estimates need to be “hedged around with caveats” and that customers must be “regularly updated.”
The report points out those costs can spiral especially where cases are prolonged and bitterly disputed. “Good lawyers, the majority of those with whom we deal,” it is acknowledged, “manage …with admirable deftness”  and where the lawyers “has clearly done everything possible to dissuade the customer from pursuing an unachievable objective or unreasonable course of action…the customer has to take responsibility for the outcome.”
Indeed the report concludes that “As hard as it must be to keep emotions in check, the lessons from this report all point towards the necessity for divorcing couples to try.” A failure to do so can, according to the findings, “cause a difference of between £10,000 and £50,000 worth of legal fees”. These are altogether different levels of costs than the £1300, quoted by the media from the report, of average costs for a straight forward divorce.
Ultimately anyone seeking a divorce is obviously recommended to use their solicitor for the legal and not the emotional aspects of the matter; keep their emotions in check; instruct a lawyer who has been recommended to them or someone whose credentials they have checked; ensure they understand how and what they will be charged and keep tabs on the amount they spend.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013


I am intrigued by reports today that there are plans afoot for a  manned space  mission to Mars in 2018. Even more so by the fact that and in order to represent humanity it is hoped that a middle-aged couple can be identified to share a 15 square metre capsule  for the duration of the 500 day journey, accompanied by more than a tonne of dehydrated food and 28kg of toilet paper.
Has experience as a divorce lawyer turned me into an old cynic or is this not the perfect recipe for divorce? Cooped up together in such close proximity for more than 18 months, it is going to take a very special couple to survive that experience with their marriage intact.
Come to think of it will interplanetary space travel be the next big stress to cause a boom in divorces? How long in effect before the honeymoon on the moon receives an “up Uranus” ending?

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


In March last year “Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation” was published. In it the author, Rachel Cusk, attempts to chronicle her attempt at rebuilding normality after her 10 year marriage falls apart.
The book is widely criticised for repeated and allegedly pointless references to Greek mythology as well as self-indulgence. Needless to say it failed to make it to the Bestsellers’ List.
Today, however, Camilla Long from the Sunday Times has received the Hatchet Job of the Year Award for her review of the book in which she describes it as “acres of poetic whimsy and  vague literary blah, a needy, neurotic mandolin solo of reflections on child sacrifice and  asides about drains” in which the author “tramples anyone close to her especially [her husband] Clarke.” Pretty much like any divorcee’s diary then!
It is hardly a fair subject for a damning review when one hopes that the author at least found therapy in the act of writing. However with a prize of a golden hatchet and a year’s supply of potted shrimps, there are surely any number of reviewers queuing to put forward their own extreme critique on the literary offerings presented to them. Divorcees beware and keep your private thoughts locked away, especially if committed to paper.

Sunday, 10 February 2013


All the current fuss about horsemeat takes me back to once upon a time when I acted for a client, let’s call him Mr Orson Cart. (I stress, of course, that any resemblance to anyone alive or dead of this name is totally coincidental.)  
Mr Cart was a polite and distinguished gentleman whose marriage had descended into a difficult period following the birth of a fourth child. When I first met him, he complained that his wife who was a lover of all things equine was forever putting her horses before the Carts. He had repeatedly asked her to sell them but to no avail.
A meeting or two later, I detected a sense of paranoia when he told me that the horses had disappeared. I assumed that his wife had finally sold them but Mr Cart was not so sure. It transpired that his wife had organised a barbecue two or three days after their disappearance and, when he’d commented how good her homemade burgers tasted, she’d done no more than smile.  
The next day he had awoken with a severe case of “the trots” and realising that his wife may have referred to filly steak as opposed to fillet, he was convinced that he had been poisoned. He duly visited his GP, who sympathised and advised him that he should watch what he ate.
I asked Mr Cart what action he wished me to take concerning the matter. However, he told me that I would have to wait for further instructions because, on doctor’s orders, he was going to Epsom to watch The Derby!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


The recent discovery of Richard III’s skeleton has already got conspiracy theorists and cynics whispering. Is it really feasible that DNA from reputed descendants can link rotting bones to a King killed in battle over 500 years ago?
I  got into conversation with a client in town today when the subject came up.
Once upon a time she had instructed me in relation to proving paternity of her young son. She was adamant that only one man could have been the father of her child. When the results of the DNA tests were received, she was, therefore, completely dumbfounded as they totally exonerated him from fathering her child; their genetic make-up being completely incompatible. After satisfying ourselves as to the identity of the person who gave the sample and the circumstances in which it was given, financial constraints and economic good sense dictated against pursuing matters further. My client, however, continues to maintain that DNA sampling, despite scientific assurance, is deeply flawed.
“I see they’re still at it,” she commented cheerily, as we talked on a wind-blown street.
“Pardon?” I replied.
“The DNA lot. They’ve just dug up a heap of bones in a car park and reckon they’ve found Richard III. Well, the last laugh’s on me; that was no King; it was that hapless lover of mine with whom I got even. I stabbed him in the head repeatedly then drove to Leicester and buried him next to my car one dark night. I always knew they’d never be able to trace my DNA to make the link.”
I think she was joking.