Monday, December 31, 2007
January - The former office of Messrs. Brow, Beaten & Bankrupt of Little Sodbury, the last firm to offer a legal aid service, reopens as a McDonald's restaurant.
February - Heather Mills releases an instructional DVD, "How to keep calm during your divorce".
March - The Government announces that it has finalised its plans to reform the Child Support Agency. Apart from a different name (C-MEC), the new agency will be exactly the same as the CSA, but half the size.
April - McDonald's in Little Sodbury announces that it will now offer a free divorce with every burger.
May - Mr Justice Singer is reprimanded after he suggests that a black wife might prefer to receive maintenance in the form of bananas.
June - C-MEC announces that all of its records have been lost, when they are eaten by a clerk's dog.
July - The Legal Services Commission increase legal aid rates by 0.1%, in a last-ditch effort to entice solicitors back into legal aid. There are no takers.
August - The Office for National Statistics announces that the divorce rate has fallen again. The Department for Work and Pensions announces that the number of unemployed solicitors has increased again.
September - Fathers' rights group The Real Families Need Fathers 4 Justice executes its most audacious stunt to date, painting Gordon Brown's face red. However, after the PM's latest loss of records embarrassment (his Cliff Richard collection), no one notices.
October - C-MEC announces that, to reduce its workload, all arrears more than a week old will be remitted.
November - Climate change campaigners protest outside Parliament, calling for the abolition of divorce.
December - In the New Years' Honours, Bruce Hyman receives a knighthood for services to the legal profession.
Happy New Year!
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Friday, December 28, 2007
I understand that the Judge indicated he was to serve 6 months before getting parole.
I understand that he has not paid the £3,000 compensation that he was ordered to pay.
I understand that he has friends in high places, including the President of the Family Division, Sir Mark Potter, who gave him a character reference.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
...Sir Isaac Newton!
[With thanks to Richard Dawkins, the New Statesman, RichardDawkins.net and Head of Legal, in that order!]
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
1. Charman v Charman
This one needs no introduction. The size of Mrs Charman's award was what caught the headlines, but it must be remembered that she only received 36.6% of the assets, primarily due to Mr Charman's "special contribution".
2. Stack v Dowden
Another one that should by now be well known to all family lawyers, although only a couple of weeks ago a client of mine was forced to go to a final hearing due to her opponent's adviser's lack of understanding of what Stack v Dowden decided. The case collapsed and my client's opponent was forced to concede, in humiliating fashion.
3. Hill v Haines
Or Haines v Hill & Another. A recent Court of Appeal decision that came as a great relief to all family lawyers. See this post.
4. North v North
Another sensible decision by the Court of Appeal. See this post.
5. Ella v Ella
I'm not sure that this one would make my top five. Mrs Ella failed in her appeal against an order that stayed ancillary relief proceedings in England, to allow them to continue in Israel as required by a pre-nuptial agreement, despite the parties having been largely resident in the UK during their marriage. Lord Justice Thorpe rejected the appeal, partly on the grounds that the pre-nuptial agreement was "undoubtedly a contract which in the Israeli jurisdiction is of considerable effect", irrespective of its relevance to an ancillary relief award in this jurisdiction.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
If ever there is to be a paradigm case in which the court will look to the pre-nuptial agreement as not simply one of the peripheral factors of the case, but as a factor of magnetic importance, it seems to me that this is just such a case.
So said Lord Justice Thorpe in the Court of Appeal yesterday, in the case of Crossley v Crossley. The case concerned the appeal by Mrs Crossley against a decision to short-circuit normal court procedures, which Mr Crossley had argued was appropriate because the marriage was short and childless, both parties had independent wealth and a prenuptial agreement had been signed. In upholding that decision, the Court of Appeal appears to have sent out a clear signal that in such cases the prenuptial agreement is likely to be the paramount factor, and there will be little opportunity to argue other issues.
Lord Justice Thorpe apparently also called for legislation to clarify the status of prenuptial agreements, although it bothers me that this decision may have already elevated their status beyond what current legislation provides. Is it not for Parliament rather than the courts to decide such fundamental issues? Of course, the situation is not helped when Parliament seems quite incapable of dealing with such potentially controversial moral matters as reform of the divorce system, leaving the courts to keep up with the ever-changing Zeitgeist.
[For update, see this post.]
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Look, if you don't believe in the theory of evolution that's fine, but to teach children to believe myths such as that the world was created 6000 years ago in seven (or even six) days is just plain wrong. To teach them to believe in any theory for which there is no evidence, such as creationism, is also wrong. Fine, tell them about these stories, even tell them that some people believe they are true, but don't tell them that they are true. Don't also tell them, as the AH Trust does on their website, that evolution is a 'falsehood', when it supported by such an enormous body of evidence. On the other hand, please do teach them to be critical when considering any theory - and that certainly includes the theory of evolution.
OK, rant over. To end this post on a lighter note, I was amused when I read that the AH Trust "believe that this unique project will influence an end to binge drinking" in our young people. Yes, I can really see our youth giving up drink to stay at home and watch a bit of Christian TV!
[For a superb report upon the Creation Museum, and the delights that may soon be available to Lancastrians, see here.]
Monday, December 17, 2007
Season's greetings! I thought you would like to know what has happened to me and my wonderful family over the past year, so I am enclosing this letter with all of my Christmas cards. It has been a difficult twelve months, but I like to think that we have come through it all as stronger people.
My lovely wife Ingrid and I parted in January, after she found out about my little indiscretion with my secretary at last year's Xmas party. She took it very well in the circumstances, although I had to buy myself a new set of clothes after I came home one day to find that she had taken a pair of scissors to my entire wardrobe. Naturally, I responded to the divorce proceedings by declaring myself bankrupt, to prevent her from getting my half of the house - a ploy that would have worked had it not been for a recent decision of the Court of Appeal.
Ingrid still lets me see the children occasionally. The twins Ronnie and Reggie got into a bit of bother with the police, but they now proudly boast of their Asbos to their friends. As for little Chantelle, she managed to get herself pregnant but she says that she will get the baby adopted without telling the father, and no one will be any the wiser.
Here's hoping next year will bring better news!
Best wishes to all,
Chris Mastedium and the family.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
A man in Chicago calls his son in New York the day before Christmas and says, ‘I hate to ruin Christmas this year, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.’Credit to that eminent oenophile, Charon QC.
‘Pop, what are you talking about?’ the son screams. ‘We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,’ the father says. ‘We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Atlanta and tell her.’
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. ‘Like hell they’re getting divorced,’ she shouts, ‘I’ll take care of this.’ She calls Chicago immediately, and screams at her father, ‘You are NOT getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?’ and hangs up.
The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. ‘Okay,’ he says, ‘they’re coming for Christmas and paying their own way.’
Friday, December 14, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
There are already legal aid 'deserts' in this country. They are growing bigger, and the Government is deaf to calls for more money to stop the exodus. How long before Mrs King's experience becomes typical over here? Interestingly, one of the Justices that ruled against her suggested that the Legislature may want to extend the constitutional right to an attorney to divorce cases when a party can't afford to hire a lawyer, as a matter of "wise public policy".
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
1. For obvious reasons, courts are likely to favour mothers where the child is very young, and when the child is a girl entering puberty. This can also mean that the mother will be granted residence of the other children, as courts do not generally like to separate siblings.
2. There are often practical reasons favouring mothers, the most common of which is work. The father is more likely to be working longer hours, and therefore in a worse position to look after the children.
3. (A controversial one.) Mothers may more often possess better parenting skills than fathers - certainly this is a common perception, which may or may not be true.
4. The ascertainable wishes of the child are, of course, an important factor, especially where the child is older. Do children favour mothers? I'm not aware of any statistics for this - perhaps a CAFCASS officer could provide an answer.
5. The risk of harm to the child is another factor, and I would suggest that this is more likely to go against the father than the mother, as there is probably a greater fear of harm by fathers than mothers.
6. Lastly, economic reasons mean fathers are more likely to leave the family home than mothers and therefore their having residence would involve a change of circumstances, giving fathers an extra hurdle to overcome if they are to get residence.
As usual, I am open to other suggestions.
I found this story via Family Law NewsWatch. What I liked about their article was the accompanying picture, which I reproduce here (I hope they don't mind). Most apt.
Monday, December 10, 2007
[Geeklawyer: The fact that I was looking at your blog as I wrote this is purely coincidental. Honest.]
Saturday, December 08, 2007
"Ah," he purred, "a very sad case. I'm sure the truth will soon come out, but I fear that he and his wife may be the most inept fraudsters since Bruce Hyman. To pose for a picture in the knowledge that it will appear on the internet requires breathtaking stupidity, just like sending a fraudulent email in view of a security camera."
"Yes, I suppose so," I said, "but why did he walk into a police station?"
"That's interesting," he said, and stopped to lick his paw. "I think he just got tired with the whole deception. He was fed up with pretending he was someone else."
"What, like Gordon Brown pretending he's the Prime Minister?"
Clearly amused, Muhammad began purring more loudly. "Sort of," he said, "but I don't think Gordon Brown has the sense to give himself up to the police."
"No, I think you're right." I replied.
Muhammad then became more thoughtful. "The people I feel sorry for are the children." He said. "It's so sad when parents put their own interests before their children."
"Yes," I said, "I often come across that in my work. Did you see that case in the Czech Republic where the court, fearing the mother was poisoning her daughter’s mind against the father, sent the child to a mental institution so that psychologists could work with her without the influence of the mother?"
"I did." Said Muhammad. "Madness - it's the parents who need help, not the child."
"Indeed," I said, "so what do you think will become of Mr and Mrs Darwin?"
"I don't know," said Muhammad, "I'm not a prophet."
Friday, December 07, 2007
I can't wait to see if they show up.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
The trustees are apparently intending to appeal to the House of Lords.
Update: The Court of Appeal judgment has now been published here, on Bailii (citation: Haines v Hill & Anor  EWCA Civ 1284). In it, the Chancellor specifically agreed with the original order of District Judge Cooke, in that firstly, the husband did receive consideration, to the extent that the wife's claim had been extinguished or satisfied; and secondly that consideration could be valued in money or money's worth, and its value was not less than the value of the consideration provided by the husband. Accordingly, s.339(a) and (c) of the Insolvency Act 1986 were inapplicable, and the transaction could not therefore be set aside. Lord Justice Rix summarised (at paragraph 82):
Although a collusive agreement by a divorcing husband and wife to prefer the wife and children over creditors and thus dishonestly to transfer to her more than his estate can truly bear, if his debts were properly taken into account, and thus more than her ancillary relief claim could really and knowingly be worth, is no doubt susceptible to section 339 relief despite the existence of a court order in her favour ... : nevertheless, in the ordinary case, where there is no dishonest collusion, and where a court approves or determines the sum or property to be transferred, it would be entirely foreign to the concept of a "clean break" if the husband's creditors could thereafter seek to recover, in bankruptcy, the property transferred or its value.I can hear the collective sigh of relief from divorce lawyers up and down the country. Now we must hope that the House of Lords doesn't reverse the decision...
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
That two children who were born with diamond encrusted spoons in their mouths should be granted legal aid is absurd enough (and a kick in the teeth for those thousands of deserving individuals who are refused legal aid every year), but to add insult to the taxpayer's injury the parents have managed to avoid paying any tax at all, despite being resident here for tax purposes and liable to English taxation, a situation which Mr Justice Holman describes as "exquisitely ironical". No doubt the media will have a field day with this one, and quite right too. If this sort of nonsensical anomaly is not eradicated from the legal aid system, then that system deserves all the ridicule it gets.
Monday, December 03, 2007
I couldn't agree more. There is nothing whatsoever in the proposals as they stand that gives me any reason for optimism - quite the contrary. Unless the Government listens, C-MEC will be no more than another re-branding exercise, in the forlorn hope that the new agency will not be tarred with the same brush as the CSA.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
The story begins by somewhat facetiously suggesting that couples may stay together for the sake of the environment rather than for the sake of the children, but I hope that environmental groups and 'family values' conservatives don't jump on the findings to blame couples for 'not trying hard enough'. There is already a school of thought that couples separate too easily, at the first sign of trouble, but the fact of the matter is that for many today marriage is no longer forever, and any attempt to coerce them to stay together is bound to cause hardship (I can't think that there is any such thing as a 'green divorce').
On the subject of global warming, I have to say that I am something of a sceptic, although perhaps I wouldn't be if politicians hadn't jumped so eagerly on the bandwagon. What irritates me in particular is the nonsense implication in many quarters that climate change is something new. The earth's temperature has always been subject to change, and always will be - we've got to learn to live with it. Having said that, I've no doubt that the human race is damaging the environment, but I'm not sure that it would be appropriate to blame separating couples.
Friday, November 30, 2007
First up was Richard Buswell, who discussed Hill v Haines, a case I have mentioned here before. Richard began by stating that he does not believe the case has changed the law. Instead, its importance is that it significantly increases awareness of the impact of bankruptcy on ancillary relief applications. To recap, the case decided that divorce financial orders made in contested proceedings can be set aside, so that the trustee can utilise assets that the court ordered to be transferred from the bankrupt spouse to the other spouse, to pay the bankrupt's debts. Richard envisages trustees in bankruptcy mentioning Hill v Haines to family lawyers and expecting them to instantly capitulate, so listed a set of 'tools' that we can use to 'fight back'. He pointed out that the case does not say that orders can be set aside where consideration in money or money's worth has passed between the parties. Accordingly, we should look for examples, such as money already received/spent, or assets 'ring-fenced' and kept by the transferring spouse, such as a business. It could then be recited to the order that, for example, 'the wife has relinquished her claim to the husband's business, worth £x'. Very useful. [Note that Hill v Haines recently went before the Court of Appeal, and we are awaiting the judgement.]
Richard was accompanied by Simon Buckhaven, who gave a fascinating talk about the Charman case, detailing the facts and summarising the pertinent points. Simon considers that Charman has considerably clarified the principles to be applied when deciding an ancillary relief case, following a string of muddled and contradictory decisions. In particular, he says, equality of division is no longer just a 'yardstick' or check, it is a principle of financial law, so that property should be shared equally unless there is good reason to depart from equality. Importantly, Charman applies not only to big money cases but to all cases so, for example, it made clear that where need is greater than what can be achieved by equal sharing, need prevails; where need is met by sharing, sharing prevails. Charman then went on to clarify such issues as special contributions, short marriages and other reasons for departure from equality. As Simon says: "It is a welcome decision", and clearly essential reading for all family lawyers (assuming you've not read it already!).
Thursday, November 29, 2007
I've mentioned this elsewhere, but I am reminded of a quote by Arthur C Clarke. When asked what is the greatest threat humanity faces he answered: "Organised religion polluting our minds as it pretends to deliver morality and spiritual salvation. It's spreading the most malevolent mind virus of all. I hope our race can one day outgrow this primitive notion". Amen to that.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I don't propose to go through the law on this point, but yesterday I read the case of Berkeley v Bulliqi  EWCA Civ 1101 (thanks again to Family Law Week), hoping for some enlightenment. What I found, in the judgement of Lord Justice Hughes, was the following:
good reason to [depart from equality] may be found in the source of the family's money, if it was inherited or provided by one spouse from resources acquired independently of the marriage, and especially if before the marriageGreat, that's clear then: inherited money should belong to the recipient. However, I read on and find this:
in a particular case there may on the facts be a justification for an equal sharing, despite the fact that a significant part of the available wealth was derived from inheritance rather than from joint effortIn other words, we are back to 'maybe', or 'it depends'.
OK, I'm being a little facetious above (previous case law already indicated a 'maybe' answer), but I set it out to illustrate the problems faced when called upon to advise on financial settlements. I know it's a point I've made on more than one occasion previously, but surely it must be possible for parliament to give some clearer statutory guidance?
Monday, November 26, 2007
I am glad, for example, that I do not live in a country like Sudan, where the BBC reports today that a British school teacher has been arrested, absurdly accused of insulting Islam's Prophet, after she allowed her pupils to name a teddy bear 'Muhammad'.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
I would say that these findings are in line with my own experience. There have been occasions when I have attended hearings in cases where the parties were so far apart that it seemed impossible that any agreement could be reached, only to find that the CAFCASS officer had brought them together. Of course, success rates can vary, depending upon a number of factors, not least the skills of the CAFCASS officers involved and the time they have available to each case. Typically each conciliation meeting is allowed about thirty minutes - to expect all matters to be resolved long-term in such a short time is obviously a little unrealistic, although an agreement reached in conciliation can be the catalyst for better relations between the parents.
I know it won't go down well with fathers' rights groups, but I agree with this conclusion to the report:
The family justice system has been subject to sustained criticism over the last few years. The findings in this study suggest that some recent criticisms, particularly from fathers groups, are misplaced. The courts do appear to be relatively effective at ensuring that contact occurs. Two years after the initial conciliation appointment significantly more children were having contact, and more contact, than they had been prior to coming to court.
[Hat-tip to Current Awareness for pointing out this story and, in turn, to Charon QC for pointing out Current Awareness!]
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
...what can rightly be said about the reforms to family legal aid proposed by the Government and the wider chronic under-resourcing of the family justice system, what can rightly be said to be common ground amongst many eminent individuals and organisations whose opinions deservedly command respect, is that those reforms constitute an unprecedented threat to access to justice for vulnerable children and families in this jurisdiction.On the legal aid reforms he said:
We have sought to make clear to the Ministry of Justice that the new Public Law Outline and the revised Children Act Guidance are designed to be implemented and operated by specialist legal practitioners; that those twin reforms can only be effective in reducing delay and improving outcomes for children if a sufficient and sustainable supplier base of such specialist legal practitioners is maintained. We have repeatedly highlighted that the Constitutional Affairs Committee has recognised, having heard evidence from all interested stakeholders from the senior judiciary to children's charities, that the proposed reforms to legal aid constitute a "breathtaking risk."So, is Section 1 of the Children Act (which also of course states that "the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration") effectively no more than hot air, just another example of government spin? Is it really the case that the Government is more interested in hard economics than the welfare of children? The Government will, of course, continue to demand more efficiency, but MacDonald responds that "there is a level of chronic under-investment below which even the most efficient use of existing assets cannot mitigate the impact of that chronic under-investment". When that level is reached, the system will break down - a consequence MacDonald fears will surely happen if the Government continues on its present path.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Now here's an interesting thing. The picture above is a screenshot (click for a full-sized image) of a blog I found today. Something is familiar about it - the post. Yes, it's exactly the same post I wrote earlier today (see below). But wait - what's this? - it says the post was written by 'TheGirl'. Funny, I don't remember giving my permission for someone to copy my post.
The blog is called 'Love Stinks' (www.lovestinks.info) and seems to comprise solely posts plagiarised verbatim from other blogs. There are a number of my posts, and also posts from DivorceSolicitor, all attributed to 'TheGirl'. Now, it's one thing copying other people's work, but but to copy it and take credit for it is in my view completely unacceptable.
If you're reading this post on 'Love Stinks', then perhaps you could leave a comment requesting the blog 'author' not to post other people's work without permission (save perhaps short extracts, with a suitable acknowledgement and link to the original), and certainly not to take credit for it.
[Edit: Well, the above post seems to have had the desired effect. 'Love Stinks' now appears to consist of posts comprising quotations and poetry. All very strange.]
Sunday, November 18, 2007
First up, we have a story from America. In Mineola, New York, a pastor's wife argued that her husband's church should be considered a marital asset in divorce proceedings, as he had used it as his "personal piggy bank". The court was sufficiently convinced to order him to open the church's books to a court-appointed forensic accountant. This is thought to be the first time anyone in New York state has tried to treat a religious institution as a marital asset - and I say why not?
Meanwhile, from Egypt we have this story about women divorcing their husbands for strange reasons, following the introduction of khol'a divorces in 2000 (before that apparently a woman had to present strong evidence against her husband, such as physical abuse or adultery, in order to divorce). The reasons for the divorces are pretty colourful, such as that one husband had bad breath and smelly feet, but my favourite is the one in which the wife sought a divorce because her husband worked as a sorcerer. All of this may sound very good news for Egyptian wives in unhappy marriages, but the downside is that they can only obtain a khol'a divorce if they renounce their financial rights. I'm sure many husbands in this country would be quite happy for their wives to divorce them for having smelly feet, if it meant no financial claim against them.
Lastly, the Guardian yesterday reported that there has been a huge increase in the Spanish divorce rate since the government introduced legislation in 2005 that made the process easier and faster. Unsurprisingly, this has alarmed religious organisations and conservative family groups, but it seems that much of the increase is due to couples who previously separated now getting divorced. Interestingly, the report says that a leading Spanish family lawyer sees the new law "as reflecting social changes in Spain, which has undergone a transition from a deeply Catholic, conservative country under the dictatorship of General Franco to having some of the most liberal social laws". Whatever, if our falling divorce rate means less work over here, I'm sure plenty of English divorce lawyers will happily swap for the sunnier climes of Spain.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Myth #1. Family lawyers are only interested in their fees, rather than achieving a good result for their clients. Aside from the issue of professional pride, family lawyers are in business and much of their work comes from recommendations, so they have a vested interest in client satisfaction.
Myth #2. Family lawyers will follow their client's instructions no matter what. Good family lawyers will only follow their client's instructions up to a point. If it is obvious that to follow instructions would be against the client's interests, then the lawyer will refuse to act - see this recent post.
Myth #3. In children proceedings, family lawyers are biased towards mothers. Why should they be - they act for fathers as well?
Myth #4. In financial settlements, family lawyers aim to take the other party 'for every penny'. Most family lawyers are fully aware that this approach is unlikely to best serve their client's interests, and many subscribe to Resolution's Code of Practice, which requires them to conduct the matter in a constructive and non-confrontational way.
Myth #5. Family lawyers live off the misery of others. We provide a service at a time of great stress, and if it is a good service then that stress will be eased. Having said that, in a large number of our cases the parties are quite amicable - where they are not, the Resolution approach aims to reduce the misery.
Myth #6. Family lawyers are in cahoots with one another. This one is often raised when the lawyer for one party 'fraternises' with the lawyer for the other party at court. But why not? They often know each other, and just because their clients are 'daggers drawn', it does not mean that they must be too. And just because they are friendly, it does not mean that they are doing a deal behind their client's back either.
Myth #7. Family lawyers are resistant to any change in the law that will adversely affect their interests (i.e. do them out of work). On the contrary, family lawyers have supported changes that will do just that, such as encouraging mediation and supporting no-fault divorce.
Myth #8. Family lawyers encourage animosity, to draw-out matters and thereby increase their fees. See 4 above.
Myth #9. Family lawyers charge extortionate fees. Yes, some do, but for most their fees are based upon their experience and their expenses (see this post). Like any business, we have to be competitive, and if we overcharge, our clients will go elsewhere. We do not operate 'charging cartels' - in fact, lawyers rarely discuss their fees with one another. Further, if a client is unhappy with his/her lawyer's fees, they can always request the court to assess them.
Myth #10. Lastly, all family lawyers are rich. If only it were the case. True, some at the top of the profession earn very large sums of money, but isn't that true for most professions? On the other hand, the high-street family lawyer doing predominantly legal aid work will be struggling to make a living at all.
[I'm tempted to disable comments for this post, but I will not!]
Monday, November 12, 2007
Divorce PREP provides "secret divorce planning for men", the idea being that: "By arranging certain things early and understanding the reality of the divorce process, men may avoid a brutal divorce settlement that can financially cripple them for their entire life". For $179 Divorce PREP provides five CDs of advice upon preparing for a divorce, including how to hide the fact that you are preparing from your spouse. The advice is not just meant for those getting divorced either: "Even if you don’t get divorced or don’t want the divorce, you are better off knowing what to do if you are forced into it".
One of the things I liked most about Divorce PREP's web site is the image it uses in its logo, which shows a wife doing the washing up and the husband, tea-towel in hand, scratching his head as he looks at the drying up - the suggestion being that whilst it's OK for a wife to do the washing up, it certainly isn't OK for a husband to do the drying up. The image is named "dead zone guy".
I am often asked by clients, usually husbands, what they can do to protect themselves financially in the event of their spouse commencing divorce proceedings. The answer in most cases is "not a lot". You cannot, for example, transfer assets to a third party in order to defeat your spouse's claim against them, as the court has power to overturn the transfer (and the judge will also most likely take an extremely dim view of your actions). There are some practical steps that can be taken, but they are unlikely to have any great bearing upon the financial/property settlement, which in any event in most cases will be based upon equality, or the genuine needs of the parties and their children.
Last, but definitely not least, Divorce PREP offers an additional product: CheckMate, the "5 Minute Infidelity Test Kit", which you can use to find out if your wife is cheating, by testing her undergarments for semen stains. Nice. Something tells me that if it's reached this point, then the marriage is over, even if the tests are clear.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Perhaps the most common scenario in family law work is where the solicitor is trying to conduct the matter in a constructive, non-confrontational way (in accordance with Resolution's Code of Practice), but the client wants a far more aggressive approach, despite being informed at the outset of the approach the solicitor will take. This can lead to increasing tensions and, ultimately, a loss of confidence by the client. The client may of course choose to instruct other solicitors, but if they do not, the solicitor may have to cease acting.
As Rule 2.01 states, the solicitor must give reasonable notice of his/her decision, although the guidance notes to the Rule accept that there "may be circumstances where it is reasonable to give no notice". The amount of notice depends upon the circumstances, for example: "it would normally be unreasonable to stop acting for a client immediately before a court hearing where it is impossible for the client to find alternative representation" - where it is, the solicitor "should attend and explain the circumstances to the court".
Friday, November 09, 2007
Thursday, November 08, 2007
I don't know the full facts of the case, but whilst the existence of the child may be an embarrassment for the father, who is said to be now back with his fiancée, it seems pretty clear to me that he has a right to know. More importantly, the child should have the chance to be brought up by one of her natural parents. I await with interest the Court of Appeal's decision.
Thanks to Family Law NewsWatch for their report of this case.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
- Darren Mack, who murdered his wife and then shot the judge who was handling his divorce, in Reno, Nevada.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to remove the child support liability in the new 'child maintenance and other payments bill' for 'non-resident parents' where equal shared care arrangements exist.
I initially hesitated to sign the petition as I did not think that it was necessarily fair that the 'wealthier' parent should have no child support liability just because there is an equal shared care arrangement. The details in the petition do suggest that parents be forced to enter into a private arrangement, but this would require them to agree a child support figure, which obviously they may be unable to do. Perhaps there should be a formula that takes into account the incomes of both parents and the time the children spend with each parent? However, I realise that it would be too much to ask the government to include such a reform in the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill 2006-07, so for now I think we should settle with the terms of the petition, which I recommend readers to sign.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Thanks once again to Family Law Week for this case report.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
At the end of a week in which the Daily Mail made the alarmist but ludicrous claim that ALL new jobs created in the economy had gone to foreigners, Victorian Maiden points out: "It seems to be taken as read that immigrants are a bad thing, especially the non-pinky-orange ones. Yet any proof of that proposition is strangely lacking". She concludes: "scummy politicians who seek personal advancement by promoting peoples’ fears, instead of showing those same people that their attitude is wrong, often selfish and often more mean-minded than they really are should be shunned by all". What, politicians refusing to jump on a populist bandwagon? That'll be the day.
Copious Rioja and cigarettes don't dull Charon QC's cutting edge (perhaps they sharpen it?) when he imagines a conversation between the Duke of Edinburgh and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia which explains a number of things, including the workings of our 'moral foreign policy', which steadfastly and consistently refuses to deal with leaders of countries which have a bad record on human rights. (Victorian Maiden also did an excellent piece about the visit of King Abdullah earlier in the week.) Had we had to suffer an election recently Charon may have stood - see the comments to this post - he would have got my vote.
Finally, The Magistrate's Blog counterpoints the resources that Her Majesty's Courts Service is prepared to plough into obtaining a Charter Mark with the fact that many courts now have to manage without an usher. He calls the Charter Mark a "tired gimmick" whose "principal function is to enhance the career progression of the managers involved and to add gloss to their CVs", whereas ushers "know more about real customer ... service than all the managers put together". Quite.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Now, I know there are a number of flaws to the above argument, but I think the basic point is still valid. The level of skill, knowledge and general competence required by a 'big-money case' lawyer is surely not twelve times that of a legal aid divorce lawyer, or anything like it. I am not for one moment saying that they should be paid at legal aid rates, or indeed that legal aid lawyers should be paid £800 per hour, but I think that high profile cases like the McCartney/Mills divorce add to the public perception of all divorce lawyers being 'fat cats', when the reality for most is quite different. The answer, of course, is that legal aid lawyers are worth considerably more than £66 per hour. As for Ms Mills' lawyers, I will leave it to the reader to decide whether they are worth their fees.
[Non-lawyer readers may have done the maths and be shocked to have calculated that, on the basis of the above figures, legal aid lawyers earn £79,000 per annum (assuming they do no private work). However, this does not take account of the lawyer's substantial overheads such as insurance, rent, equipment, wages for non fee earning staff etc. The amount that a legal aid lawyer actually receives will be a fraction of his/her fee income.]
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I'll begin by echoing a couple of comments by Sam Hasler on his Indiana Divorce & Family Law Blog. Firstly, these blogs seem a little more serious than most English family law blogs - reflecting greater respect for the system perhaps? Secondly, and more importantly, it's surprising just how relevant much of the content is to our work over here, despite a completely different legal system. I'm including them in my list of family law blogs, and recommend a regular look by family lawyers on this side of the pond.
Sam Hasler practises (?practices) law in Anderson, Indiana, and his blog obviously reflects Indiana state law, but his horizons clearly don't stop at the state boundaries. A number of his posts mention English blogs, and I am grateful to him for several mentions of Family Lore. He is also open, as we should all be, to ideas across the world, including from here and Australia. What particularly impresses me, though, is the number of posts and the range of subjects that Sam energetically and enthusiastically covers. A definite recommendation.
Another recommendation is California Divorce and Family Law by Jeffrey Lalloway, mentioned below, which gathers together family law related articles from various sources. The style of this one is less formal than the others I have read, containing less law and more general advice, such as in this recent post about how to make divorce as painless as possible.
The top blog in the top 30 is the Divorce & Family Law Attorney Blog by Houston lawyer J. Shannon Cavers. This long-running blog contains a good mix of law and advice on a large number of topics, and is primarily aimed at members of the public. Nicely written and informative.
New York Divorce Report is written by Daniel E. Clement, who has been practising since 1986. Also similar to me, he has been blogging since early last year and the blog contains a mix of family law related stories not dissimilar to Family Lore, even a post on the (in)famous Wedding Ring Coffin that I covered myself (I hadn't read Daniel's post before writing mine, honest). Naturally, I heartily recommend this blog.
Last for now, but certainly not least, we have Divorce Law Journal by Diana L. Skaggs of Louisville, Kentucky. Leaving aside the colour/color scheme, I like this one a lot, and not just because Family Lore gets a mention. The blog is clearly aimed at lawyers rather than clients, containing detailed insights into recent developments, but nevertheless still has plenty to offer family lawyers outside the US.
First we have The Divorce Party Planner: How to Throw a Divorce or Breakup Party, a book by Christine Gallagher, the creator of the frighteningly-titled 'relationship site', RevengeLady.com. The book gives advice and ideas about how to hold such a party, although I suspect the more reserved will want to know why to hold such a party. The site explains: "The party is an opportunity to announce your new status in life. You are now single and available for new experiences and even new relationships. A whole new phase of life is just beginning. And that is something to celebrate!"
The other idea is Divorce Cards, a site that sells cards for (it seems only) divorced men that "tell whomever you need to tell where to reach you and does it with a sense of humor". At present there seem to be only three cards available, the best of which says on the front "My wife left with my house, my car, my money and my best friend...", and inside: "and I miss him". As the site says: "When you can finally laugh about your divorce, then it is time for Divorce Cards."
Saturday, October 27, 2007
My client was left with mixed feelings. Naturally, she was pleased that she had been given sole residence, and relieved that the matter was over (the court made a s.91(14) order preventing the father from making any further applications without leave), but she also had to explain to the children that they would not be seeing their father. How this will affect the children remains to be seen, but clearly the court did not agree with the father that it would be best for them if there were no further direct contact. Whether the father himself genuinely believed this, or whether he did what he did as a last-ditch attempt to persuade the court to grant him sole residence (and didn't want to lose face by changing his mind in court), only he knows.
As fathers' rights groups quite rightly remind us, fathers often lose contact with their children through no fault of their own, but the other side of the coin is those fathers who choose to stop contact, or who never attempt to have contact in the first place (I quite often have to advise mothers that the court cannot force the father to have contact). I hope that those fathers read the letter in the Guardian, and that it gives them pause for thought.
[Update: Dianne Benussi has written a post giving advice on what to do if your ex doesn't want to see the children.]