Thursday, April 30, 2009

Don't Fuck Up Your Children

In one of the sternest judicial warnings to warring parents I have come across, Lord Justice Wall (left) quoted from Philip Larkin in the case of R (A Child), Re [2009] EWCA Civ 358 yesterday. The case involved a highly acrimonious residence application, part of a dispute between the parents that had been on-going since they separated in 2003. Judge Everall QC at Luton County Court had found that it was no longer possible for the parents and the child to work together, and so made a residence order in favour of the paternal grandparents. The mother's appeal against that order was granted but Lord Justice Wall in the Court of Appeal gave a warning to the parents of the serious harm that their actions were causing to their child. "I hope this case has given the mother a fright. I hope it has also given the father a fright." He said. "They have come within a whisker of losing their child." In a postscript to his judgment he then quoted from Larkin's poem This Be The Verse:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

These four lines" he said "seem to me to give a clear warning to parents who, post separation, continue to fight the battles of the past, and show each other no respect."

Let us hope that more parents heed the warning.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pre-Order Your Copy Now!

My book, Do Your Own Divorce, which I have until now been selling as an online eBook is due to be published in hard-copy in August, by How To Books Ltd, at the price of £10.99. The book is now available to pre-order on Amazon.

Home Truths

Now that the family courts are open to the media, I thought I would make a few things clear:

1. Judges and magistrates are wicked evil people who will do anything to thwart the wishes of parents.

2. Lawyers are biased in favour of mothers, a fact that they hide from their father clients.

3. CAFCASS officers are incompetent, and will conceal evidence from parties if it suits their ends.

4. Social workers are politically motivated people who will do everything in their power to ensure that children are taken away from their parents.

5. Expert witnesses neither know nor care what they are talking about.

There, the truth is out. Now can we please just carry on as normal?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Not a Red Letter Day

I posted about the new rules allowing media access to the family courts a few days ago, (for anyone who is unaware of the rules and their effect (where have you been?), an excellent summary can be found here) and thought I would return for a very brief look at the initial reaction to the change.

What has happened on the ground? Well, not a lot, apparently. The Times does appear to have sent a reporter to every family court, and certainly Camilla Cavendish sat in on a hearing yesterday, but Lucy Reed at Pink Tape and other family lawyers have reported very little media interest in their activities.

As to the response of the media themselves, this seems to have continued to be almost exclusively negative. Take, for example, this article that appeared in The Guardian today (hat-tip to Jailhouselawyer). Complaining about the continued reporting restrictions, Afua Hirsch said: "At the moment, the presence of the media is only marginally better than pointless."

Doubtless I will be returning to this subject (as, I'm sure, will the campaigners who wish to fully open the family courts), but for the moment at least it seems that very little has changed. Certainly, as The Telegraph said today, yesterday was not "a red letter day in the history of the Family Courts."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Podcast Interview #7: Nick Langford, ex-Fathers-4-Justice

Today I am speaking to Nick Langford, former Political & Research Co-Ordinator for the fathers’ rights group, Fathers 4 Justice, until it disbanded recently, and not to be confused with Nicholas Longford, new chair of Resolution. We speak about what Fathers 4 Justice stood for, the group's (and his) views on the family justice system, opening up the system, divorce reform and reconstructing iron age roundhouses (see picture!), among other things. My thanks to Nick for taking part. The podcast is here.

All about cost?

I came across this article in a recent issue of Computing, regarding the government's decision to outsource the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission's computer system to Indian company Tata Consultancy Services ('TCS'). I don't want to get into a debate about offshore outsourcing or indeed about the merits of TCS, but it does bother me that the primary criterion for awarding the contract appears to be price, rather than fitness for purpose. Hopefully, my fears will prove unfounded, but we can't afford to have another computer disaster with the child support maintenance system.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Phrases I no longer want to see #1

In the first of what may be an occasional series, I thought I would relate some of the gems of drafting that I have come across in letters that I have received from other solicitors over the years.

My first example has been an all too frequent visitor to my desk, used by aggressive solicitors, often who specialise in general litigation rather than family law. They think that my client has done something he/she shouldn't have done, or has failed to do something they should have done. Accordingly, the letter comes to me threatening to take proceedings against my client and to seek an order that my client "be condemned in costs". Pardon? Condemned? Have these dinosaurs never heard of Resolution or the Family Law Protocol? They obviously want to scare my client into acquiescence, but they have a complete disregard for the long-term effect of such language upon my client and the prospects of reaching an amicable settlement. Please, people, language like this belongs to a (thankfully) bygone era.

Under the Microscope

OK, so family courts will be opened up to the media as from Monday, but exactly what is the purpose of this reform, and will it make any difference?

In a comment to this post I was asked what I feel about the reform and my reply was: "Personally, I'm not convinced either that the courts should be opened up at the behest of the media, or that these reforms will make much difference. The proof, as ever, will be in the eating." Yes, it is probably true that public confidence in the family justice system is at a low, but this is only because of a sustained campaign by the media and others, such as fathers' rights groups. As someone who works within the system, I do not witness such cause for concern (although I do have some worries, such as delay in the system). That is not to say that we should be complacent - I'm sure that the system could be improved, and we should constantly be seeking ways of achieving this. However, my experience is of seeing dedicated, highly motivated professional people doing their best for those unfortunate enough to be caught up within the system, especially the children, and of good results being achieved in the vast majority of cases. Of course, there are people who the system has failed, but this would probably be the case with any system - not that we should give up the hope of finding a 'perfect' system.

As to whether or not the reform will make a difference, both the media and Resolution have already expressed substantial reservations, and I agree with many of those. The same severe limits upon what can be reported remain, which makes the purpose of the whole exercise somewhat dubious, and in any event, the media will not be the slightest bit interested in the vast majority of cases. It has also worryingly been suggested that the reforms may lead to more litigation - the very last thing we want, particularly in children cases. The ultimate rationale for the reform is of course that, with more media involvement, the public will be better informed and the system will be improved. I'm not at all sure that either of these aims will be achieved.

Whatever transpires, one thing is clear: the system is going to be under the microscope like never before, if only to see how the new rules work.

If you want to know the detail of the changes, you will find the Rules here and here, the Practice Directions here and here and the President's Guidance here.

The Scribbler

What does a solicitor do on a Saturday morning? Well, this morning this one was checking the web for weird and wonderful things and came across The Scribbler, via Webscape. The Scribbler is an online 'toy' that takes your own doodle 'and creates its own drawing on top of it based on a number of simple rules'. Watching it at work can be quite mesmeric. The above is my effort at a self portrait. OK, so it ain't exactly Hockney...

Friday, April 24, 2009

FAMILY COURTS: NEW RULES WON’T CREATE OPEN, TRANSPARENT SYSTEM

I have just received this News Release from Resolution:

FAMILY COURTS: NEW RULES WON’T CREATE OPEN, TRANSPARENT SYSTEM

New rules to open family courts to the media rushed in by the government represent a missed opportunity to allow thorough and effective public scrutiny, family lawyer’s group Resolution warned today, as it called for the establishment of a Family Courts’ Inspectorate.

From Monday accredited journalists will be allowed to attend divorce, custody and care proceedings, unless the court has specifically excluded them. But the new rules still will not allow journalists to report on what they hear in court and cases not considered newsworthy will be completely without public scrutiny.

“These changes simply tinker at the edges of the issue and have created a system which could well make matters worse when members of the public and press realise that details of cases cannot be made public,” said Andrew Greensmith, Resolution’s spokesperson on family court transparency.

“Greater openness and transparency has an important part to play in ensuring public confidence in the family court system, but simply allowing the media to sit in on cases is not enough. The new rules need to be extended to allow journalists to report what they see and hear in court, providing the identity of the families involved is protected.

“Resolution is calling on the government to set up a ‘Family Courts’ Inspectorate’, made up predominantly of lay people, which could act as an effective guardian of standards in the family courts. Otherwise the risk is that only those cases that are ‘newsworthy’ will be subject to any public scrutiny,” said Andrew Greensmith.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Weed Killing

Running this blog I have come across many excellent and interesting people. However, the internet mirrors life and one therefore also occasionally comes across groups of people who are a complete pain in the posterior. One such group is comment spammers. A particularly insidious type of weed, the comment spammer isn't put off by word verification and obviously thinks that the privilege of being able to comment upon someone else's work is an open invitation to freely advertise his or his client's wares. It is not.

I'm afraid that I have not always been particularly meticulous in my application of herbicide, and this may have encouraged the spammer. Accordingly, I will hereafter delete any comment that looks to me as if it may be spam. If you left the comment and it was not spam, let me know and I will reinstate it. I may also 'name and shame' regular perpetrators. I do not want to turn on comment moderation (I think commenters like to see their comments appear instantly), but I will do so if I have to.

OK, rant over.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

DIVORCE LAWS: FIT FOR A TUDOR KING BUT NOT FOR THE 21ST CENTURY?

I have just received this News Release from Resolution:


DIVORCE LAWS: FIT FOR A TUDOR KING BUT NOT FOR THE 21ST CENTURY?


500 years after Henry VIII became king, divorce laws in England and Wales still need radical reform, a group of family lawyers said today.


As England’s most notorious divorcee, Henry VIII radically altered the religious, political and social makeup of the country in order to divorce Catherine of Aragon. Half a millennium later, with divorce now a common and accepted part of modern Britain, things are a bit easier for couples wanting to divorce, but they nonetheless have to point the finger of blame, or accept the burden of blame in order to get a divorce – something that leading lawyers say is outdated and gets in the way of constructive solutions.

“Anyone not wanting to wait two years or more for a divorce has to prove ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or adultery on the part of their husband and wife. Although for some couples this is appropriate, for many it simply adds animosity and more heartache to an already distressing process,” said Nicholas Longford, Chair of Resolution which represents over 5500 family lawyers in England and Wales.


“We want to see a radical overhaul of the current system to allow couples who have come to the end of the road with their marriage to divorce amicably and harmoniously without being forced to blame the other spouse.”

Resolution is calling for a new system whereby couples not wanting to prove adultery or unreasonable behavior can divorce on the grounds of “irretrievable breakdown” of their marriage after six months.

Nicholas Longford concluded. “Whilst not quite like the hoops that Henry VIII had to jump through almost 500 years ago, the current system is nonetheless outdated and is convoluted for couples wanting an amicable divorce. We sincerely hope the government will act swiftly and decisively to bring divorce laws into the 21st century. ”

Twitter as a serious tool? You're having a laugh...

When I joined Twitter I was told that it would be a wonderful business tool that I should not be without - a mantra that I have often seen repeated since. Now some months (and 1,900 tweets) later, I can't honestly say that Twitter has lived up to the hype. At least not as a business tool.

I have, however, enjoyed Twitter as a place of amusement. Highlights have included the surreal evening when @Charonqc invaded France, conversing with a gorilla and a pretend divorce for a pretend marriage. If you don't already tweet (and if you think your sanity can stand it), then have a go at Twitter. Just don't expect to get much work done.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Genuine Motives?

My thanks to John Hirst of Jailhouselawyer's Blog for drawing my attention to this article by Marcel Berlins in the Comment is free section of the Guardian today. Berlins, like other journalists, is not impressed by the government's plans to open up the family courts, which come into operation next Monday: "They clearly fail to meet the media's hopes and expectations. Indeed, on one view, very little of significance will change. Some openness is there, at least cosmetically, but the end result looks a lot like the status quo."

A cynic may say that journalists would criticise the measures unless they completely opened up the family courts to the media. After all, there is hardly anyone more full of their own self-importance than a journalist (with the possible exception of a politician). Surely, as Berlin implies, the public's 'right to know' is more important than the interests of the children?

Of course, I'm not a cynic. Am I?

A Rare Bird

I came across a rare bird in my post today, a decree absolute of nullity. The last statistics I saw indicated that only about 500 nullity petitions are issued in England and Wales each year. Certainly, it has been a while since I did one.

What prompted me to write this post, however, was not so much the rarity of nullity, but the wording of the decree itself, which I had forgotten. After certifying that the decree nisi was made absolute it states that: "...the said Petitioner was from that date and is free from all bond of marriage with the said Respondent." Good to see that we still have a place for archaic language in our family justice system.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tasty and Tasteful

May I recommend to all my clients the wonderful range of divorce cakes available at Elite Cake Creations. I particularly liked the above example: both tasty and tasteful. Unfortunately, Elite Cake Creations are based in Pembroke Pines, Florida, so whether they deliver over here...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Appalling

This appalling story requires little comment, save for the question: why was the mother forced to return to this country to defend Children Act proceedings issued here by the father, thereby putting her in harm's way? The report doesn't state exactly what orders the father sought, or whether the issue of jurisdiction (i.e. whether arrangements for the children should be dealt with by the court in this country or in Australia) was argued but if it was then I suspect that this country would have been favoured, as it had been the children's usual home. However, given the history of the matter, any such decision must now be open for serious criticism, even if it was right in law.

'My Time' Chart

I'm not sure if I've mentioned the 'My Time' chart before, but I have today been informed that it is available from the Encourage and Praise website. A joint venture with Resolution, the chart is, I think, a very useful resource for children whose parents have separated or are separating. Aimed at children aged four to nine, it is based around a two-week-to-view calendar and comes with two different coloured dry-wipe pens so that children can see at a glance which parent they are seeing on a particular day. It also includes space for writing reminders of things to tell or take to their other parent’s house, and special dates to remember. The chart costs £9.50 for one and £18 for two.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Small Announcement

I determined to take a break from serious blogging and news updating over the Easter weekend, but I am making a small exception today to announce a couple of changes to Family Lore Focus:
  • Due to time constraints, I will no longer be doing my weekly podcast summary of the week's family law news, The Week in Focus. I will, however, continue to do podcast interviews, and I may also do one-off podcasts dealing with issues of special interest. Of course, if you want to keep up with family law news on a weekly basis, you may subscribe to the Family Lore Focus Newsletter.
  • On the subject of the Newsletter, that will now be going out on Mondays or, if the Monday is a Bank holiday, on the Tuesday. Hopefully, it will not now get lost in the avalanche of spam emails that so many of us have the pleasure of receiving over the weekend!
Right, having dealt with that, I'm off to relax for the remainder of the holiday. Think I may watch my favourite Easter film...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dreams unwind

Like many of my male contemporaries at university, I had a crush on Stevie Nicks:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Podcasted!

Natasha Phillips (left) thinks I am a gentleman. It is an illusion that I am happy to encourage, although I am not sure that it survived her interviewing skills when she podcasted me recently. To make up your own mind, listen to the podcast here.

I Love Your Way

Initially I was saddened when I saw how Frampton had aged, but then I listened to the song:

Thursday, April 09, 2009

UK Family Law Blog Review 2009

It is now more than a year since I did my first review of UK family law blogs, and I thought it was time to check again on the health (or otherwise) of the UK family law 'blogosphere'. In keeping with the season, I shall give this review an Easter theme, and divide the blogs into three categories:

1. Easter Bunnies - Frisky and Fecund

Happily, most of the UK family law blogs that I reviewed last year continue to thrive, and produce regular and original content. Take the Marilyn Stowe Blog for example. Marilyn (with her guest bloggers) continues to write frequent high-quality posts on serious legal topics, such as the recent Paulin case, Mesher and Martin orders and Financial Dispute Resolution appointments. Add this blog to your feed, if you've not done so already.

Another equally active blog is Pink Tape, written by barrister Lucy Reed - at least, it is active again now that Lucy has returned to work following the birth of her son. With a sprinkling of humour, Lucy enlightens us with her inner thoughts on matters such as criticisms of the family justice system, what she might do if the legal aid reforms make it financially impossible to continue practising at the family law bar and whether or not a barrister has a duty to the child(ren) in a case.

Bloody Relations is perhaps not as fecund as it once was, but I will forgive author Jacqui Gilliatt, as she now spends much of her time writing and editing the Family Law Week blog. Between the two, her output is substantial (in both senses of the word), with the Family Law Week blog concentrating (not unsurprisingly) on legal news and Bloody Relations being reserved for more personal comment, such as this recent post on the effect of the proposed fee cuts in family cases.

Over at Judith's Divorce Blog, Judith Middleton continues to post in her own unique quirky style, both delighting and amusing. Take, for example, this post inspired by a simple trip to the supermarket, or this one, about a complete communication breakdown between solicitor and client. Somewhat less frivolous, the Benussi Blog continues to give discreet but useful advice to those going through divorce and matrimonial difficulties, such as this recent post upon the effects of the credit crunch, and this post advising upon how to stave off a divorce.

Divorce Survivor appears to remain, remarkably, the only Scottish family law blog (come on you Scottish family lawyers - haven't you heard of the internet?), where 'Fiona' continues to plough her lonely furrow. Not that she needs any support - her blog does a very good job of keeping us up to date with developments in family law and related issues, on both sides of the border.

What of newcomers? Well, there are two that I will mention in this section. Firstly, Divorce Manual, by Natasha Phillips. As the name implies, the blog does contain a manual, full of tips and advice for litigants in person. The Times newspaper no less describes the site as "packed with resources for families going through the Family Courts in the UK", and says that: "The advice is balanced and helpful and the site is unique; there is an actual manual you can access with information even lawyers don't offer about the process." Clearly getting the blogging bit between her teeth, Natasha has recently branched out into podcasting.

The other newcomer is something quite different. The Story of Mennard is written by an anonymous solicitor-turned-barrister and details, in a completely unique 'stream of consciousness' style, his experiences representing clients in family matters. The blog has only been going since February, but has already attracted 21 followers - clearly, another one to add to your feed.

2. Easter Eggs - Commercialised, but still nice

In this section, I will mention what I call 'commercial blogs', i.e. blogs that are strongly linked to the service that the blogger provides. A cynic might call them 'advertisement blogs', but there are no rules against such things in the blawgoshere and, for the most part, these blogs contain genuine content of interest to many.

Take, for example, the Ancillary Actuary, run by Bradshaw Dixon & Moore Ltd, who provide "actuarially-based professional services to solicitors and other legal advisors". They don't post often, but when they do they provide substantive expert comment in the difficult and oft-misunderstood (by divorce lawyers, anyway) area of pensions and divorce. An excellent example of this was the series of posts they did on why wives lose out, which can be found here, here and here.

Meanwhile, over at Divorce-Online, Mark Keenan has not one but two blogs. The first of these, chronologically at least, was Divorce: The Blog about...Divorce (what else?), which has been posting enlightening and amusing comment since last August. It has recently been joined by The Divorce-Online Blog, which now has the majority of the content, although Mark will be retaining Divorce : The Blog about…Divorce for more personal comment.

Other examples of the 'commercial blog' genre include Family-Lawfirm.co.uk, by online divorce firm Woolley & Co., and Family Law at Lawson West LLP by, unsurprisingly, Lawson-West LLP.

Finally, marginally staying out of the next section, is Family Law Matters, run by Jo Spain of Spain Williams LLP. Unfortunately, Jo has not exactly been posting prolifically of late (probably something to do with having real work to do), but I hope that she finds time to continue the blog.

3. In Need of Resurrection






The following blogs appear to be moribund (but I would love to be proved wrong):
So, there we are. The UK family law blog 'scene': healthy in parts, not so healthy in others.

Happy Easter!

[On this occasion, modesty prevents me from including the blog you are presently reading in this review. Otherwise, if I have omitted any UK family law blogs, do please let me know. Once again, I hope that I have not offended anybody by my comments or omissions.]

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain (Paperback) by Marc Morris

Following this post, my second book review has now gone up on Law and More. In complete contrast to the first book I reviewed, this review was of the paperback version of A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain, by Marc Morris. The book deals with the events of an important (and often overlooked) period in our history, the effects of which are still felt to this day. Thoroughly recommended. The review can be found here.

Law and More is an "independent career and lifestyle site aimed solely at the legal profession", including employment, entertainment and lifestyle sections.

Worth Waiting For...

As a result of drinking rather too much of the red stuff last night, my daily news update on Family Lore Focus went up a little late today. Still, it was well worth the wait, including news stories, a case involving sequestration (!), two statutory instruments, an article in the Guardian by Marilyn Stowe and several interesting blog posts. Head over to Family Lore Focus for all the gen.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Satisfying No One?

So now we know. Justice Secretary Jack Straw (left) announced yesterday that, subject to Parliamentary approval, family court hearings in county courts and the High Court will be opened to the media from the 27th April. Only holders of the UK Press Card will be able to attend, and court will be able to restrict attendance "if the welfare of the child requires it, or for the safety and protection of parties or witnesses".

On the face of it, this measure appears to be a significant victory for those, such as fathers' rights groups, who have been campaigning for years to open up the family courts, yet I doubt that many of the campaigners will be satisfied that the reform goes far enough. Indeed, the power of the court to restrict attendance could, in practice, mean that there is actually very little change after the 27th April - we shall have to see. On the other hand, senior family lawyers, including Mr Justice Hedley, have expressed their concerns at the unseemly haste with which the measure has been pushed through. Has the Justice Secretary skilfully found a solution that will satisfy none of the interested parties?

One thing is clear, as a blogger I will not be entitled to attend family courts. I, at least, am not dissatisfied with that.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Situation Vacant

Sadly, Chicago divorce lawyer Corri Fetman's career as a Playboy columnist has come to an end. The Chicago Breaking News Center reports that she has filed a suit against the magazine alleging that an executive there sexually harassed her. Apparently, she is seeking more than $4.5 million in damages for "gender violence", amongst other things. Meanwhile, if there are any lady divorce lawyers reading this, it seems that there may just be a vacancy for you...

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Free Speech

My thanks to Charon QC for drawing my attention to this video, that I had missed previously. As the old cliché goes, I may not agree with what the other man says, but I will defend to the hilt his right to say it:


Obviously, the above video is no longer available, but I believe it was of this speech by the great Christopher Hitchens:



Thursday, April 02, 2009

Myerson: Not difficult

The judgment in Myerson v Myerson [2009] EWCA Civ 282 has captured the headlines around the world (see, for example, here and here), but did the decision come as any surprise? The answer, quite clearly, is "no". As Lord Justice Thorpe (left) said: "Although the present appeal has its dramatic features, its resolution is not, in my judgment, difficult. The principles governing an application to set aside an ancillary relief order on the grounds of some dramatic subsequent event have been clearly established and consistently applied over the course of the last 20 years". He was, of course, referring to Barder v Barder (Caluori Intervening) [1988] AC 20, and the line of cases that followed that famous decision.

Before going into the detail of the judgment, however, a brief look at the facts. The husband is a fund manager, whose assets consisted of a very substantial share holding and various properties. On the 28th February 2008 a settlement was reached at a Financial Dispute Resolution hearing. Of the assets then valued at £25.8 million, it was agreed that the wife would receive £11 million (43%) and the husband would retain £14.5 million (57%). The order giving effect to the settlement was made on the 19th March 2008. A property worth £1.5 million was transferred to the wife, and she was to receive the balance of £9.5 million by way of a first instalment of £7 million due on the 3rd April 2008 and four further instalments of £625,000 on the 3rd April in each of the following four years. The £7 million instalment was paid, leaving the balance of £2.5 million outstanding.

Then the recession hit. The husband's shares plummeted in value from £2.99 each at the date of the settlement to just 27.5 pence each in March this year. The effect of this, according to the husband's counsel, was that if the settlement was implemented, the husband's assets would be minus £539,000 and the wife's plus nearly £11 million. The husband therefore appealed the order, asserting that forces within the global economy and the collapse in the share price had rendered the order "both unfair and unworkable", and contending that the events were sufficiently dramatic to fall within the principles set out in Barder.

To recap, the Barder principles were set out in that case by Lord Brandon:
"A court may properly exercise its discretion to grant leave to appeal out of time from an order for financial provision or property transfer made after a divorce on the ground of new events, provided that certain conditions are satisfied. The first condition is that new events have occurred since the making of the order which invalidates the basis, or fundamental assumption, upon which the order was made, so that, if leave to appeal out of time were to be given, the appeal would be certain, or very likely, to succeed. The second condition is that the new events should have occurred within a relatively short time of the order being made. While the length of time cannot be laid down precisely, I should regard it as extremely unlikely that it could be as much as a year, and that in most cases it will be no more than a few months. The third condition is that the application for leave to appeal out of time should be made reasonably promptly in the circumstances of the case."
Since Barder, there have been more than a dozen reported cases in which the principles have been applied, but only in Cornick v Cornick (1994) 2 FLR 530 did the applicant rely upon a dramatic fluctuation in share prices (albeit then an upward fluctuation - how times change). In that case, it was clearly stated by Hale J that where: "An asset which was taken into account and correctly valued at the date of the hearing changes value within a relatively short time owing to natural processes of price fluctuation" ... "The court should not then manipulate the power to grant leave to appeal out of time to provide a disguised power of variation which Parliament has quite obviously and deliberately declined to enact". It was therefore clear that the husband's appeal should be dismissed. However Lord Justice Thorpe found four other reasons for refusing relief:

1. The settlement was agreed by the husband, with all his knowledge and experience.

2. The husband sought the repayment of all or part of the first instalment of the lump sum in exchange for transferring to the wife an unspecified number of his shares: "When a businessman takes a speculative position in compromising his wife's claims, why should the court subsequently relieve him of the consequences of his speculation by re-writing the bargain at his behest?"

3. He still has the opportunity to turn the business around (he has apparently been making statements to this effect to the press).

4. He has already made an application to vary the future instalments, both as to quantum and timing which, given that the outstanding instalments amount to £2.5 million, would give him "much more than token relief".

A spokesman for the husband has indicated that he intends to take his appeal to the House of Lords. Given all of the above, the prospects of such an appeal succeeding look very slim indeed.

It has been suggested by family lawyers that this decision will 'head off' the 'deluge' of similar applications by bankers and traders hit by the recession. We shall have to see.

And what do I think? Well, firstly the principle that capital orders should be final remains intact (save, of course, for the limited powers to vary under s. 31 MCA) and secondly, it appears to me that, at the time of the settlement, Mr Myerson got what then must have looked a pretty good deal. He retained more than 50% of the assets (when surely Mrs Myerson could have claimed entitlement to a full 50% - it was, after all, a long marriage), on a clean break basis. Presumably, he could have sold his shares immediately after the settlement, but instead he chose not to, continuing to speculate in the financial market. That market could have gone up, in which case he would now be 'sitting pretty' - would he have then gone back to his (ex) wife and offered her more? I think not. He took the risk of the market and lost - why should Mrs Myerson have to pay for that?

Cut Movie


...and here is a video of an altogether different kind. Actress Keira Knightley features in a powerful film for Women's Aid's latest campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence. She is seen arriving home to be assaulted by her partner. The assault continues and as the camera pans back to show the whole film set the caption is: "Isn't it time someone called cut?"

* * * * *

UPDATE: Here is the movie, now on YouTube:

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Riding with the wind

I thoroughly enjoyed this rendition of an old favourite:



...and with that, I'd better end this musical interlude.

Crossroads

I was ten...

Birdland

Just stumbled across this on YouTube:

BabyB revealed?

According to The Times yesterday, the author of BabyBarista has been revealed as none other than Tim Kevan, barrister, writer and author of The Barrister Blog. Personally, I'm not so sure. I prefer the story that BabyBarista himself has come up with, namely that he has appointed Tim to look after the publicity work relating to his upcoming book 'BabyBarista and the Art of War'. Whatever the truth, good luck to Tim/BabyB/whoever with the book!

March Post of the Month

Well, there can only be one winner of my coveted prize this month. Geeklawyer's selfless efforts to show the profession in a good light are, of course, legendary, and this month he surpassed even himself. Blawg Review #203 was a stunning tour de force, providing us with a true orgy of blawging delight. I understand that it was not favourably received in some quarters, but I do not share the views of the prudish detractors (although what it has done for Anglo-American relations remains to be seen).

The prize of a virtual Moniak Mead x 12 is, as we speak, heading for Geeklawyer's not-so-humble abode - just don't put it on one of your home-made shelves, GL!

WARNING: Blawg Review #203 is probably not office safe. Well, not unless you work in that kind of office.

Raising Standards

You can't have too much regulation, and you can't get too much accreditation (so long as you still have space on your letterhead for the logo). Accordingly, the Association of Regulated Solicitors ('ARS') has today initiated their own accreditation scheme, to which I am pleased to say I have joined.

ARS sets out its aims thus:
  • To promote extra excellence within the profession;
  • To reassure the public that the profession continues to take meaningful steps to raise standards;
  • To provide further bureaucracy, to keep solicitors busy in these hard times; and
  • For the sake of the environment, to ensure that no space is wasted on solicitors' letterheads.