Saturday, March 29, 2008

Down Memory Lane #3

Unlike my previous Down Memory Lane posts (which you can find here and here), this one isn't exclusively about family law. Instead, I'm going to make all current practitioners envious of the way things used to be when I started out in the profession. In those days, the primary purpose of a lawyer was to simply do the job his or her client wanted them to do, rather than spending half of their time filling in forms and going through procedures. It was a time when lawyers were trusted, not just to know what they were doing, but also to use their common sense to ensure that risks to themselves, their clients and others were kept to a minimum.

Now, the simple act of starting a new matter involves a whole series of procedures and form filling - money laundering checks, risk management checks, conflict of interest checks, client care letters (how many clients read them?) etc. etc.. Only when all of these have been completed and dealt with can you turn your attention to actually doing the job the client has instructed you to do. I recall a time when you could start doing that job as soon as the client left the room.

And even if your client wanted legal aid the situation wasn't much worse. A full legal aid application form comprised only three sides of A4 - and all you had to put on the third sheet was one figure for the client's income. Now, if you are unfortunate enough to do legal aid work, a whole rain forest has to be chopped down each time an application is made.

One of the reasons I gave up legal aid work was that I preferred actually doing the job to form filling. However, now there is an ever-increasing number of forms to fill in even if you don't do legal aid work. This is especially so if your firm has Lexcel, Investors in People or some other bollocks accreditation mark, in which case expect your productive time to be further reduced by such delights as appraisals, file reviews and file closure procedures. I know it must be hard for some people now to understand how you could possibly run an office without a manual to tell you how to do it, but I can confirm that it really did happen.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

45% of marriages will end in divorce

Sorry, too busy to post about this - I'm off to the dealers to order my next Mercedes. Now... what colour?

Splash & Grab

I had not intended to mention Macca v Mucca again unless I could help it, but I couldn't resist this one (requires Flash Player):

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How to settle a case

Sometimes getting clients to sensibly negotiate a financial settlement can be like pulling teeth. They have their own agenda and seem determined to obstruct the process, which can be especially frustrating if there are only limited assets available for distribution. So, I thought I would give a few pointers to anyone who is finding it difficult to reach an agreed settlement:
  • The first thing to say is obvious, but needs saying: actively negotiate. Don't wait indefinitely for the other party to make the first move (they may not), and don't wait for them to offer you everything you want. Similarly, don't 'dig your heels in' by responding to a counter-proposal by repeating your last proposal, unless you really have offered everything you feel you reasonably can.
  • Negotiate sensibly. There is no point in putting forward an outrageous proposal that there is no chance the other side will accept. Remember, one of the primary purposes of negotiation is to save costs - pointless offers will only prolong the matter, thereby increasing costs.
  • One of the biggest problems is persuading clients to see the big picture, rather than getting bogged down in the minutiae. It may be galling that your ex has taken that old sofa that cost so much when it was bought, or that you paid the last electricity bill and they didn't, but my advice is get over it. Arguing over such matters will soon increase your costs way beyond the value of the items involved, and if the case goes to court such arguments will irritate the heck out of the District Judge.
  • Try to see the other side's perspective. Remember, if the matter goes to a hearing the court will (obviously) consider the arguments put forward by both parties. For example, the needs of the other party (and, of course, any children) may dictate that you can't get everything you want.
  • Put personal feelings aside. You may want to 'punish' your ex, but whatever they have done, it is extremely unlikely that it will have any bearing on the financial settlement. Increasing animosity will obviously decrease the chances of settlement.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, listen to your lawyer's advice. They may not be telling you what you want to hear, but that is not their job - if they advise that you are being unrealistic, then lower your sights. They may also, in certain circumstances, advise you to contravene one of the above 'rules', because it is appropriate to do so.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Departing from equality

A certain well-reported case went before the Court of Appeal last week. Over the weekend, I realised that I hadn't seen any report of the outcome, so I did a news search for the parties' names. Nothing new came up, and now I know why. The Court of Appeal has, somewhat late in the day, banned publication of their names, in order to protect their teenage son. Accordingly, I can now only refer to the case as B v B, and I am grateful (once again) to Current Awareness for providing this link to a report of the case in The Guardian yesterday. I will not repeat the facts of the case - see the report - but suffice to say that the Court of Appeal ruled that the lower courts had erred in trying to share out the assets roughly equally when all of the wealth had been brought into the marriage by the wife, and therefore awarded Ms B a greater than half share.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Secular education for all

It is extremely heartening to hear that the National Union of Teachers is considering calling for faith schools to be abolished and integrated within a secular state education system, in a motion to be debated at the union's annual conference. As supporters of the motion state, faith schools undermine community relations by segregating children in accordance with their parents' religious beliefs. They also indoctrinate children in those beliefs and some at least teach such nonsense as creationism and 'intelligent design' as credible alternatives to evolution and other scientific theories. The time has come for a secular state to have a secular education system.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Science or superstition?

First we have senior members of the Catholic clergy urging Gordon Brown to allow a free vote on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Now the BBC reports that the prime minister is prepared to allow Labour MPs who oppose the bill to vote against pieces of the legislation. Do I detect the papist paw of Tony Bliar at work here?

Friday, March 21, 2008

President Millward

Congratulations to District Judge Edwina Millward upon being appointed the first woman president (remarkably) of the Association of District Judges. I have had the pleasure of appearing before her on a few occasions, and I am sure she will do an excellent job. Her appointment could be of particular significance to family lawyers as she has a special interest in family law matters, as demonstrated in this interview in Solicitors Journal.

Happy Spring Equinox!

Regular readers of Family Lore will not be surprised that I am unimpressed by a story that somebody rose from the dead two thousand years ago, so instead of wishing a happy Easter, I wish you a Happy Spring Equinox!

[And for pedants out there: Yes, I am aware that the equinox occurred yesterday.]

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Old boy network?

Now here's a surprise. The Office for Judicial Complaints has dismissed the complaint by Simon Eades against the President of the Family Division Sir Mark Potter, for providing a character reference for Bruce Hyman. The Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice jointly "decided that the action of Sir Mark Potter in providing a reference, limited to his knowledge of Mr Hyman as a friend, cannot reasonably be considered to affect his suitability to hold judicial office". What will this do for the public's perception of the judiciary, and the profession as a whole?

Update: Simon Eades has made a complaint to the Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman, Sir John Brigstocke KCB, about the handling of his complaint.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Not the function of marriage

Here's a common sense decision today by the Court of Appeal. In KC & Anor v City of Westminster Social & Community Services Dept. & Anor the court decided that an arranged marriage conducted over the telephone between an autistic British man who functions at or below the level of a three year old and a woman in Bangladesh would not be recognised under English law, despite the fact that it was valid under sharia and the law of Bangladesh. To Lord Justice Wall the case was about recognition of the marriage, rather than its validity. He stated that: "To the mind of the English lawyer ... such a marriage is perceived as exploitative and indeed abusive. Under English law, a person in the position of [the man] is precluded from marriage for the simple reason that he lacks the capacity to marry." Apparently, to the Bangladeshi mind such a marriage "is perceived as a means of protecting him, and of ensuring that he is properly cared for within the family when his parents are no longer in a position to do so." However, it is surely not the function of marriage to protect the vulnerable.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Black door, white wash

More than a year ago I signed the 'scrap carter' epetition. Today 10 Downing Street issued the following reply:

"The Government believes that legal aid is a fundamental underpinning of the justice system, enabling access to justice for those who cannot afford to pay for legal advice and representation. This is reflected in the fact that the legal aid system in England and Wales is the best funded in the world. We spend £38 per head of population compared to between £3 and £4 in France and Germany. Even countries with a legal system more like ours spend less; for example, both New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland spend around £8 per head.

The Government was concerned that earlier payment structures for legal aid work are not representing best value either for users of legal aid services or for taxpayers. Moreover, the rise in spending on criminal legal aid has, in the past, prevented us focusing more legal aid resources on people with social welfare or family problems. We have therefore introduced standard fees for a wide range of legal help and representation as part of our duty to provide taxpayers with value for money.

No money is being taken out of civil and family legal aid. The current reforms are about getting best value for money from the legal aid system so that the Government can help as many people as possible within the resources available - so they will result in more, and not fewer, people being able to get help."

All of which sounds wonderful, until you realise that none of the solicitors in your area provide a legal aid service, because it is no longer economic for them to do the work.

The Burning Question

Well, of course it wasn't all over, but perhaps it is now (one can live in hope). Heather Mills was refused permission to appeal against the decision to make the full judgment public. The judgment will now be published, and I'll provide a link to it as soon as I have it. However, don't expect it to answer the burning question of exactly what led to Fiona Shackleton emerging from court yesterday with wet hair.

Update (about 2 minutes after I posted the above!): That didn't take long. The judgment has now been published, here, all 58 pages of it. I may post further about it once I've read it, if I still have the will to live...

Update to update: Fearing for my sanity, I have only scanned through the judgment. It goes into the details of the history of the marriage and the proceedings (with Ms Mills unsurprisingly not coming out unscathed), but essentially the decision was a simple needs-based one. Perhaps the most telling statement of Mr Justice Bennett is this: "This case is a paradigm example of an applicant [i.e. Ms Mills] failing to put a rational and logical case and thus failing to assist the court in its quasi-inquisitorial role to reach a fair result." So much for representing herself.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Money (That's What I Want)

So, it was £24.3 million - close to the 'estimates' flying around in the last few days. Let us just hope that is the end of it...

Update: The Times has published a summary of the judgement (thanks to Current Awareness for the link), which gives some details. Points to note:

1. Ms Mills sought an award of almost £125 million, whereas Sir Paul proposed that she should exit the marriage with assets of £15.8 million, inclusive of any lump sum award.

2. She was awarded a lump sum of £16.5 million, which together with her assets of £7.8 million means that she exits the marriage with total assets of £24.3.

3. The £16.5m award was made up of a sum of £14 million as the capitalised figure for her income needs, which the judge assessed as £600,000 per annum, and a sum of £2.5 million for her to buy a property in London.

4. Sir Paul's assets were valued at £400 million. Mr Justice Bennett found that: "There was no evidence at all before him that he was worth £800 million."

5. Lastly, the parties were: "strictly prohibited from publishing, disclosing or in any way revealing without the consent of the other the evidence, correspondence, transcripts, judgements or orders in the proceedings concerning (a) the child of the family, (b) the main suit, (c) the cross applications for ancillary relief and (d) any marital confidences."

OK, now let's hope that that really is the end of it, although I doubt it somehow.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

McCartney case relevant to all

Here's something that has already been mentioned by Judith Middleton, but I think it bears repeating. The media cacophony over the McCartney/Mills case is reaching a crescendo with the judgement due tomorrow, but just how relevant is such a case to all the 'ordinary' people who are reading the stories? Well, quite relevant, actually, according to Resolution, which issued a media briefing last Thursday setting out a number of issues that they suggest are relevant to more ‘normal’ divorces:
  • Sorting out a financial settlement doesn't have to involve a "high-conflict court battle" - there are alternatives, such as mediation.
  • The case highlights the need for enforceable pre-nuptial agreements, "allowing people to take control of their own financial future rather than relying on the current lottery of divorce court hearings".
  • If one party brings assets into the marriage, this can be taken into account when deciding the financial settlement, especially if those assets are considerable, but the usual position is that "unequal contribution is only relevant where it would produce an unfair result if it were not considered".
  • The shortness of the marriage can also be relevant but, again, only "where it would produce an unfair result if it were not considered".
  • Mr Justice Bennett has indicated that he intends to make part of the settlement public due to the level of media interest in the case - we will discover exactly what tomorrow - but financial proceedings are normally conducted in private, which encourages negotiation.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

That Extra Mile

When a solicitor instructs counsel, they want someone who will go that extra mile to achieve the result the client seeks. He may, to coin a phrase, come at a price, but clearly Geeklawyer is one such counsel, as demonstrated by this post, in which he oils up and waxes lyrical. Brilliant stuff.

[Update: I'm pleased to report that Geeklawyer's 'proper' blog is now back up.]

Friday, March 14, 2008

Purrfect Gifts

[I'll do another quick post, before John notices.] Here are a couple of great ideas that were mentioned the other day on my favourite blog, The Smirking Cat, that I thought would be of interest to readers who have been through divorce, and need a bit of cheering up. Firstly, we have a delightful wall hanging with the heartfelt caption: "It's better to have loved and lost, than to live with a Psycho for the rest of your life". Yep, I'd agree with that. The second one is even more tasteful: ex husband/wife toilet paper. Great if you want to rub their nose in it.

The Pet Subject

Pets and divorce - John thought that this would be an appropriate subject for my first post. Personally, I think that he's too world weary with clients bickering over who should have the family mutt to post about it himself. Don't get me wrong - John loves animals (I wouldn't have stayed with him so long if he didn't), it's just that he's been telling me for some time he was going to do a post about this, but kept putting it off. Anyway, he doesn't have to now, and neither do I, because Pink Tape has written this excellent post telling you all you need to know about how those awful family courts deal with us pets on divorce. Chattels indeed.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bad News Budget

As I battled to work this morning past all the small people in their large four-by-fours, I consoled myself with the thought that at least they were going to have to pay more for the privilege of driving vehicles that will never see the off-road terrain for which they were designed. My reverie, however, was short-lived as I then began contemplating the other measures announced in Mr Darling's first budget.

If you choose to drown the sorrow of the most gloomy economic forecast in years by having a tipple, then that will cost you more. If, like me, you find that a little nicotine helps you through the day, then that will cost you more. If you want to cheer yourself up with some retail therapy, then you'll soon have to pay for the plastic bags in which to carry all those things you bought but don't really need. And if you want to jet off to escape the clouds of depression, then they'll extract one last pound of flesh from you before you leave, in increased plane duty. As a member of the public told the BBC, if they could bottle the air you breathe, they would tax that.

[Forgive me - I realise that the above has nothing to do with family law, directly at least, but sometimes a blog can just be a useful place to let off steam!]

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Virtual Refuge

There's an interesting new resource on the Women's Aid website. I can imagine that the prospect of staying in a Women's Aid refuge can be pretty dispiriting for a victim of domestic violence. Well, now the charity has a 'virtual refuge' on its site, which gives women an idea of what it's like to stay in one. This allows visitors to explore a refuge, and along the way answers many of the questions that are likely to be asked. An excellent use of web technology, and something that may put a lot of minds at rest.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Don't leave it to the last minute

It's an all-too-common scenario: there are only a couple of weeks or even days to go before the final hearing and one of the parties is not happy with the way the case is going, so they decide they need representation, or to change solicitor. They then come to you, expecting you to miraculously turn things around. The fact of the matter, of course, is that you've barely got time to arrange for them to be represented at all, let alone properly prepare the case. Please, if you're going to instruct/change solicitors, don't leave it to the last minute.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Scared to seek help

A commenter on this post has made the point that many women who suffer domestic violence are terrified of seeking help for fear of having their children taken into care, and gave a link to a YouTube video on the subject by (I believe) Dr. Lynne Wrennall (incorrectly spelt 'Rennall' in the video) of Liverpool John Moores University. The video appears to have been uploaded to YouTube by or on behalf of Mothers for Justice, a group who campaign "for everyone who has suffered an injustice with the corrupt judiciary system". I haven't done any child care work for many years, so I can't really comment on this from my own experience (do the 'vast majority' of women suffering domestic violence have their children taken into care, as the commenter suggests?), but obviously it is a serious matter if victims of domestic violence are deterred from seeking the help that they desperately need.

Here's the video:

Saturday, March 08, 2008

UK Family Law Blog Review

I thought it was time to review the state of family law blogging in this country. I'll review every UK family law blog that I'm aware of (if you are aware of any others, please let me know), although I don't intend to be too critical, as I don't think that that would be appropriate - these blogs are written by people in their spare time and provide a free service to other lawyers and members of the public. This post is intended partly as an update, and partly as an introduction for new readers.

Before I begin, a quick word on the state of UK family law blogging. Considering the number of family lawyers on these islands, and the number of people affected by the family justice system, there aren't an awful lot of UK family law blogs. There have been a few recent additions, but there are also several that have suffered from a distinct lack of recent posting. In alphabetical order, these are the ones I know about:

The Ancillary Actuary
We start with something different from the rest. The Ancillary Actuary is a blog by "actuarial and administrative professional services firm" Bradshaw, Dixon and Moore, and "is intended to encourage an exchange of ideas and promote debate about the financial issues that arise in a relationship breakdown". The blog is an extremely useful resource for advisers, particularly upon the complexities surrounding pensions and divorce.

Benussi Blog
A serious blog by Diane Benussi, senior partner of Benussi & Co, a "niche matrimonial law firm" based in Birmingham. The blog concentrates on dealing with the practical and emotional aspects of relationship breakdown, so is aimed very much at clients rather than lawyers. Some excellent advice is to be found, although it would be a little easier to find it if the posts were arranged by subject matter.

Bloody Relations

Written by barrister Jacqui Gilliatt, Bloody Relations comprises a mix of serious and not-so-serious posts on all aspects of family law, including public law matters. Contains information and advice not just for lawyers but also for non-lawyers, such as this excellent post, which should be compulsory reading for anyone involved in family court proceedings. One of my favourites.

Child Lawyer

I had feared that this blog was moribund, but there have been a couple of recent posts. Written by Sophia Cannon, the blog is a "perspective of an English Child Law barrister, with an urban London practice, specialising with non-traditional families with reference to family, pregnancy and child law, including crimes committed against vulnerable adults, young people and children". Hopefully, Sophia will find time to post more frequently in the future.

Clarendon Chambers Family Law Team Update
Written (unsurprisingly) by the family law team at Clarendon Chambers, this blog started last September and hasn't been updated since early December. I hope it hasn't 'died a death', as this could be a very useful resource for all family lawyers.

Divorce Solicitor

Written by Southampton solicitor Lynne Bastow, Divorce Solicitor was, as I recall, the second UK family law blog, and it remains one of the best. Lynne writes primarily for clients and, like Diane Benussi, deals particularly with the practical and emotional aspects of relationship breakdown, albeit in a very different style. This is another one of my favourites, despite the fact that Lynne appears to have a sticky exclamation-mark key on her keyboard!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Divorce Survivor

To my knowledge, this is still the only Scottish family law blog, and it's not even written by a lawyer (perhaps Scottish lawyers are all too busy to blog). The author, 'Fiona', works in the engineering industry, but is also a divorcée, which I presume accounts for her interest in family law. She started the blog at the beginning of January and has regularly updated it since with interesting content, particularly (of course) relating to the Scottish legal system.

The Editorial

This was started in January as part of an ambitious project to provide a place where family lawyers share their knowledge. Unfortunately, it's hardly been updated since then, and a page on the blog aggregating feeds from other family law blogs has been 'beaten to it' by Nick Holmes' Family Law Pipe. I hope the unnamed author (apparently a recently qualified solicitor) hasn't lost enthusiasm.

Family Law Matters
Uniquely amongst UK family law blogs, this blog is integral to the website of SpainWilliams LLP, a specialist family law firm in Kent. The content comprises mainly legal advice for clients going through separation and divorce. An interesting concept, and one that I expect will be emulated by other firms.

Family Law Week Blog
This blog complements the excellent and extremely useful Family Law Week, which provides training and free legal news and case reports. The content comprises updates on family law, many of which are written by the energetic Jacqui Gilliatt of Bloody Relations, above.

Family Lore
Being too modest to comment upon his own work, John has asked me to say something nice about Family Lore. Something nice? Good to see that he still has a sense of humour after two-plus years and 550 posts. I've tried to keep him on the straight and narrow, but sometimes he just won't listen to me. Family Lore is a mix of posts that I suppose may be of interest to some, and other rubbish that I wouldn't touch without a liberal sprinkling of Go-Cat.

Judith's Divorce Blog
Written by Judith Middleton of Darlington firm Latimer Hinks, this blog has a quite unique feel about it. Although some of the posts are serious in nature, many are quite whimsical, flowing from news stories or incidents in Judith's personal life. Imaginative, informative and often amusing - what more could you ask of a blog? Another of my favourites.

Marilyn Stowe Blog

A very professional blog, by solicitor Marilyn Stowe of Stowe Family Law LLP. Unusually, the blog was created by a website design company, although I don't know whether they also created the blogging software, or just a theme for 'off the shelf' software. Either way, they have achieved a polished look that compliments Marilyn's thoughtful posts on serious legal topics.

Pink Tape
Last but not least comes Pink Tape, by barrister Lucy Reed. Very well written, Pink Tape contains posts on a wide variety of family law topics, often with a self-deprecating good humour. Unfortunately, Lucy hasn't been posting that much recently, partly because she has foolishly decided to start a family. I hope she will be able to blog more frequently again, as I really enjoy her writing, although I do have one small request: could you put a blank line between paragraphs?

Right, after that, I'm off to have a rest. I hope I haven't offended anyone too much...

Friday, March 07, 2008

Wives still worse off

Here's some food for thought for the increasing number of husbands who feel that the law on divorce is biased against them. The Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex has published a study 'Marital splits and income changes over the longer term', which suggests "that marital splits continue to be associated with short-term declines in income for separating wives and children relative to separating husbands", although the size of the decline has reduced since the 1990s, due to the increased rates of employment for mothers. The study also suggests that "incomes for separating wives do recover but not to their previous levels: five years after a split, incomes remain about 10% below their pre-split levels on average", although "women who do not have a job in any of the five years after a marital split, or who do not find a new partner, do much worse than this".

Cohabitation reform cop-out

Resolution has issued a press release criticising the Government’s announcement yesterday that it will delay acting on the Law Commission’s proposals for the introduction of legal protection for cohabitees. They say that "the government is seriously out of step with public opinion", and that the decision will cause "continued distress and hardship". Jane Craig, a member of Resolution’s Cohabitation Committee, said: "The present law creates real injustice for many people. Our members frequently see people who face financial hardship and even homelessness as a result of the current law. Any further delay inevitably means further injustice for some people." It does seem to me that waiting until some unspecified time in the future to see how the similar Scottish system (which came into effect last year) is functioning, after two years of work by the Law Commission, is something of a cop-out.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Feeling in a generous mood, I thought I would again respond to some of the search queries that have recently found their way to Family Lore. Once again, my Disclaimer (see the sidebar) applies to what follows.

how do i get a court order to stop my wife from taking the net proceeds from sale of house

Presumably, the house has already been sold and is/was owned solely by your wife, in which case you can apply to the court for an injunction order restraining her from taking the money. If it has not been sold yet then you can register a matrimonial home rights notice at the Land Registry, which will have to be removed before the sale can be completed - you will only agree to its removal once you are satisfied that the net proceeds will not be distributed until their division has either been agreed, or determined by the court. If the house is or was owned jointly, then the conveyancer dealing with the sale should not distribute the net proceeds without the agreement of both parties, or a court order.

what is a draft consent order

And, by the same searcher:

is a draft consent order legal document

A consent order is simply an order, the provisions of which have been agreed by the parties. The term most commonly refers to financial/property orders in divorce proceedings. A draft order is usually prepared by one of the parties' solicitors, agreed with the other party's solicitor, and then sent to the court for approval. If the court approves the draft, then it will make an order in those terms. The question then arises: is an agreed draft consent order enforceable? The answer is that it probably is, unless it states that the agreement contained in the order will only be binding upon the parties in the event of the court making an order in its terms.

who killed shafilea ahmed

We don't yet know, but the police are investigating a number of possible leads, following a recent appeal on the BBC Crimewatch programme.

lawyer deliberately makes it worse for their client

Oh dear. Sounds like this could be a matter for the Legal Complaints Service.

csa liability order can't pay

A liability order enables the Child Support Agency to take action to enforce payment of child support. What happens next depends upon what type of enforcement action the Agency decides to take. For example, they could instruct a bailiff to take possession of the non-resident parent’s belongings and sell them to raise the money the non-resident parent owes, they could take enforcement action in a county court, or they could apply to a magistrates court for the non-resident parent to be committed to prison. Note that on a committal application the court must consider the non-resident parent's means, and whether there has been 'wilful refusal or culpable neglect' on their part.

what to do if you have been named as the person involved in adultery

If you have been named as a 'Co-Respondent' in divorce proceedings, then you will have been served with a copy of the divorce petition, together with a form of acknowledgement, which you should complete and return to the court, stating (amongst other things) whether or not you admit the alleged adultery. If you do, then the court could order you to pay all or part of the Petitioner's costs of the divorce. You should seek legal advice if you are not sure how to complete the form.

i want to change the arrangements for our children

The first thing you should do is to try to agree any change in arrangements with the other parent. If this is not possible, would they agree to discuss the matter with you and a mediator? If all reasonable efforts to agree fail, then you may make an application to a court for an appropriate order (which will depend upon the nature of the arrangements which you would like changed).

taking advantage family court

Huh? Who's taking advantage of who, and how?

remarriage legal advice child support

Remarriage by itself does not affect liability for child support, but if the non-resident parent's new spouse has dependent children, then the liability is reduced when the NRP and his/her spouse live together.

english family law wife equal

Yes - of course.

county court procedures decree absolute

The procedure on applying for the decree absolute depends upon whether you are the petitioner or the respondent. The petitioner may apply after six weeks have elapsed since the date of the pronouncement of the decree nisi, by completing a simple application form and paying the court fee, currently £40. The court will then send out the decree absolute. The respondent may apply three months from the date when the petitioner can first apply, but the procedure is considerably different, and may involve a court hearing. Note that if either party applies after 12 months have elapsed since the date of the decree nisi, then they will need to explain the reasons for the delay, whether there has been any resumption of cohabitation since the decree nisi, and whether the wife has given birth to any child since the decree nisi.

what to dress in law court

Well, I wouldn't recommend a black cocktail dress, fishnet stockings and high heels, as an American judge was found wearing recently (albeit not in court), even if you're a woman. I assume that the query comes from a non-lawyer (hopefully lawyers know what to wear), in which case there is no dress code, but I would recommend wearing something smart, such as a suit.

set aside consent order for material non disclosure

I suspect that this query may have come from a lawyer, so I'll be brief (look it up yourself!). Any order, made by consent or not, can be set aside for a material non-disclosure, but before you make the application ask yourself: would the court have made a substantially different order if the disclosure had been made?

grandparent's rights in divorce

Grandparents (presumably of the children of the divorcing couple) have no rights in connection with the actual divorce proceedings. If the query relates to contact with the grandchildren, see this post. Otherwise, the only other scenario in which grandparents may be involved is in any property settlement on the divorce, where they claim to have an interest in the property.

application for an order for disclosure of child's whereabouts

See this post.

application for ancillary relief for dismissal purposes only

These are required with applications for ancillary relief (i.e. financial/property) consent orders (see above) - the financial claims have to be made, so that the court can dismiss them. They are made by completing a Form A, and heading it with the words 'For Dismissal Purposes Only'.

complaints about mediators divorce

The mediation service should have its own complaints procedure. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, then you may make a complaint to the UK College of Family Mediators.

Lastly, a question that I can't answer:

why marry?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Show Must Go On

Here's a great little story that appeared in The Times last month*. Anton Popazov and his wife Nataliya are members of the Moscow State Circus and part of their act involves Nataliya shooting an apple off Anton’s head with a crossbow. However, their marriage has broken down and they are now separated. Despite this, they are contractually obliged to continue performing together for another year. As the circus manager said: "It brings a little more tension to the act, to say the least." Quite.

[*At the time, I missed this story - hopefully something Nataliya won't do with the apple.]

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


I know this has been around for a while, but I only came across it today. You could call it a surefire way to attract divorce clients...

Propping up the system

I did another session at the Kent Law Clinic last night. For those who have not read my previous posts about it, the Clinic is run by the Kent Law School at the University of Kent, with the objectives of providing a service for local people who need legal advice and representation but cannot afford to pay for it, and enhancing the education of students in the School. I'm sure the Clinic fulfils these objectives, but should such a service really be necessary in a country with a legal aid system? Surely, such a system should ensure that all people have access to justice? Patently, it does not, and the Government therefore relies upon people providing their services for free, to prop up a system that is failing in its objectives.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Fiddling While Rome Burns

I haven't read every English blawg over the last month, but I've read quite a few. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think any blawger has mentioned the crisis that many solicitors' firms are currently enduring. Well, it may be 'business as usual' for blawgers, but it certainly isn't for many high street and provincial practices. The utter collapse of the housing market has meant that the 'bread and butter' regular domestic conveyancing income that such practices rely on has almost dried up, with the result that many firms are having to lay off staff.

I've been in this profession since 1980. During that time, I've seen a few ups and downs in the domestic conveyancing market, and I've heard of firms making staff redundant before, but never on this scale. Hardly a day seems to pass without news of another firm laying off staff, and not just one or two people - I've heard of firms laying off eight, ten or even fourteen people. I'm sure some firms may have to close completely, and wouldn't be surprised if this hasn't happened already. Of course, I only hear of firms in my area, but I'm sure this scenario is being repeated across the country.

Why has the housing market ground to a halt? Well, I'm not a conveyancer, but I've discussed the matter with conveyancing colleagues and it seems to me that there are two main factors: the problems with the mortgage market stemming from the US sub-prime mortgage crisis, and the introduction of Home Information Packs ('HIPs'). Colleagues suggest that the bigger of these factors is HIPs, which became compulsory for all house sales on the 14th December last, and the expense of which is deterring many potential sellers from putting their properties on the market. HIPs have also given more power to estate agents, who are directing sellers to their HIPs providers and, inevitably, to their own conveyancers (who will have prepared the HIPs) - so firms that don't have a business arrangement with a large chain of estate agents are being left out in the cold, and may therefore continue to miss out when the housing market recovers.

Does all of this matter if you're not a conveyancer? Well, as I've said, for many small firms domestic conveyancing provides a regular income upon which they rely. If that goes, there will be an inevitable knock-on effect in other areas of their work, and some firms may go out of business entirely, reducing consumer choice.

I may have been a little harsh on fellow blawgers at the beginning of this post. Few of them are solicitors, and I suspect that most are therefore ignorant of the problem - certainly I've not seen it mentioned in other areas of the media either. I'm afraid it's somewhat upsetting to see the suffering of colleagues in the profession being met with complete indifference.