Sunday, May 31, 2009

Raising the Bar

If you have an hour - or two - to spare, may I recommend to you Blawg Review #214 by Charon QC. To say that it is a tour de force would be to do it an injustice (pun intended); to say that it is substantial would be an understatement; to say that you should read it is, well, the truth. As the person who has to write Blawg Review #216 in two weeks' time, all I can say is that Charon QC has raised the bar to a frightening level.

Attention grabbing

I'll make no comment about this great picture that appeared on the Maryland Trial Lawyer blog, other than to say that I love it. The blog's author, lawyer Constance Camus, asks the question: Is a Divorce Billboard Notice Dissipation of Marital Assets? I'll leave it to the attorneys involved in the case to argue that one...



UPDATE:
Thanks to Divorce Saloon for pointing out that the wife in this case briefly ran a blog. Interesting reading...

Stupid?

I am indebted once again to John Hirst of Jailhouselawyer's Blog for bringing to my attention this story that appeared in the Sunday Times today. Apparently, a mother will lose all contact with her child, because the court considers that she is 'too stupid' to look after her. She is now taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights.

On the face of it, this appears to be an appalling decision, no doubt picked up with glee by the media in its continuing campaign to discredit the family justice system. However, I am sure that there is much more to this case than appears in the Sunday Times report. I am not saying that the court was justified in taking the action that it did (I have insufficient information to comment either way), just that sometimes its secrecy can work against the system. Perhaps it is time for a real opening up of the courts?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Family Lore Case Digest

Here's a new feature that I'm adding to Family Lore Focus. Family Lore Case Digest contains all of the cases mentioned in Family Lore Focus (and may contain more later). For each case, there is the citation, date, summary and a link to the report. All cases are listed under subject heading and the Digest is fully searchable, using all or part of the case name, or any term that appears in the the name or summary. This will, I believe, provide easy access to most family law reports that are freely available on the web. The Digest can be found here, and there is now a tab linking to it at the top of this page.

Family Lore Focus Daily Update

Interesting news update on Family Lore Focus today. We have a couple of stories in The Times about CAFCASS chief Anthony Douglas, two law reports, a blog post by Marilyn Stowe on the Bokor-Ingram case and a post from Divorce Discourse in America about making a profit - a subject relevant to us all! Find these and more on Family Lore Focus.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wikivorce Australia goes live


As part of its continuing bid to take over the world, Wikivorce sent me the following press release:

PRESS RELEASE

Wikivorce, the world's fastest growing divorce support community is continuing its expansion by launching Wikivorce Australia, an Aussie specific version of its very popular divorce and separation social networking website.

Due to the global financial slump an increasing number of separating couples are turning to the internet to find free advice and support, as well as cost effective legal solutions. The decreasing value of their homes and pensions means they are less able to afford expensive lawyer's bills.

Wikivorce is an online divorce support community offering free advice, support and information. It now has over 35,000 members. One new person visits the site every minute. It is the most visited divorce website in the UK with close to 1 million page views per month.

Wikivorce founder, Ian Rispin, said: "Wikivorce is now well established as the leading divorce support website in England. Two weeks ago we launched our Scottish site and today we are going live with a fully localised version of the site for the people going through a break up in Australia."

The new site will contain a library of information specific to divorce in Australia; court forms will be available to download together with information about how to fill them in and members will be able to share their stories, support each other and exchange useful advice and information about how to get through the divorce process either with legal representation or without.

One of the most important parts of the site is the forum where members can ask questions about every aspect of divorce and separation. Although there will be sections that are specific to Australian procedures, members will also be able to receive - and offer - emotional support as part of the growing global Wikivorce support community.

Sylvia MacDonald, the new Head of Wikivorce Australia, has been a member of the Wikivorce community for almost 18 months.

She said: "Experiencing separation and divorce first hand was one of the most traumatic times in my life and being one of the very few in my family and circle of friends that are divorced meant I really didn't have any knowledge about the whole divorce process. Finding Wikivorce helped me get through this period in both practical and emotional terms. The website became my first port of call with any queries I had as there is so much information, advice and support readily available at virtually any time of day or night. The emotional support I and many others have received from the Wikivorce community is of immense help. Being able to share experiences and thoughts with others going through the same stress and emotional turmoil helped tremendously. I have made several very good friends through Wikivorce and am happy now to be able to give something back and support others."

With further country launches in the pipeline - including Canada and the USA, Wikivorce is well on its way to becoming the leading global divorce and separation web community.

Please visit the Wikivorce Australia website to find out more about what we do.

Wikivorce is a social enterprise, we are passionate about our mission to provide information, support and advice to anyone going through divorce or separation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A good idea?

Two strands of thought came together this afternoon. I had been contemplating doing a post following up Lord Justice Wall's Philip Larkin quotation with the (obvious) observation that the problem is that parties just can't see what they are doing. It may be perfectly clear to an outsider that their actions are having a serious detrimental effect upon their children, but no matter how hard you try to persuade them of this they remain utterly convinced that what they are doing is the best thing for their children.

Then I glanced at Mr Justice McFarlane's Key Note Address to the Resolution National Conference, in the copy of Resolution's monthly Review that I have just received. Near the end of his speech he says that he believes that it is of the utmost importance to ensure that each parent thinking of coming to the court understands (inter alia) that each of them, and not the court, has equal responsibility for making arrangements post-separation for their child (my italics). This reminded me of something that I (and no doubt others) have often considered.

Would it not be most helpful if parliament made a clear unequivocal pronouncement that, upon separation, both parties have an equal say in arrangements for their children, and that that pronouncement was backed up by a sustained national campaign, drumming the message home so that it became 'common knowledge'? Would this not reduce the likelihood of conflict between separating parents? Or am I just talking rubbish? Your views on a postcard in the comments, please.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Black Dog

Turn your volume right up:

The cauldron boileth over

We all know that the emotional cauldron of divorce can boil over at times. Over the years I've heard of many threats that one party has made to the other, including threats to kidnap children, threats to give up work to thwart maintenance claims and even threats to kill.

Thankfully, however, these threats are rarely carried out.

One particular threat that crops up from time to time is the threat to burn down the matrimonial home so that "he/she won't get any of it". I've never known it to be carried out, but for Deborah Jackson the news that her husband was having an affair was enough to raise her emotional temperature well beyond 100 degrees. She burned their £210,000 matrimonial home to the ground, leaving her and her husband with nothing. "I didn't want him to get a penny" she is reported to have said. Well, it seems she succeeded. She also succeeded in getting herself a one year suspended prison sentence and an 18-month supervision order.

News Update on Family Lore Focus

Once again, the news today is dominated by the Baby Peter case, with reports in all the broadsheets. For links to the top stories, go to Family Lore Focus.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Proof Reading - A necessary evil


Apologies for the paucity of posting recently, but I have been engaged in the task of proofreading my book. It is not my favourite task, but thankfully it is nearly at an end. Normal service will be resumed thereafter.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Alternative Dispute Resolution

They do things differently in Florida.

John Palmore and his wife Khadeja are separated and going through a divorce. Khadeja reportedly goes to John's house to remove some items. John finds her there, an argument ensues and Khadeja allegedly punches him on the nose. John allegedly then shoots her with his taser gun, to prevent her from getting a kitchen knife. Khadeja says that she threw a flashlight at him to stop him from approaching her with the taser. The Sheriff's Office, it seems, accept John's story and charge Khadeja with battery. John is not arrested.

Somehow, I can't see this scenario happening over here, but who knows?

My thanks to the Florida Divorce Law Blog for the heads-up on this story.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I beg your pardon?

Don't you just love spam blogs? This morning I came across 'reference list', which appears to have run my last post through a translator into another language (?French), and back into English again. The 'author' may think that this makes the post 'original', but it also makes it complete garbage. Here, for your delectation, is the new version in full (compare it with the real post below this one):

Family Lore: Marital obligations

Also in The Times, but on a degree lighter note, I enjoyed Gary Slapper’s Weird Cases column yesterday. The odd if it should chance in query this week concerns a Kenyan publish who is suing the leaders of a coalition of women’s groups who organised a seven-day flee of indecent relations with men, as a study exception at the country’s patrons and federal problems. The publish has issued laic proceedings, claiming that his chain had refused to principles his conjugal rights because of the flood.

Whether an deficiency of coupling in the direction of seven days is a legally actionable oppress is not specified in most countries, says Slapper. What was tested, motionlessly, was whether a chain was in cell of her marital obligations when she often badgered her mate in the direction of coupling. I degree dubiousness in some method that we command dig this tested as untouched here. As Slapper points free, these were the facts of a 1960 fracture if it should chance: To excite him into copulation she would, in the beginning hours of the morning, pull his outward show of one’s teeth, fascinate check of him not later than the ears, and joggle his check violently to and fro. Unfortunately in the direction of the mate, motionlessly, not later than giving in to her demands he was adjudged to drink ‘condoned her cruelty’. Divorce farm was demonstrably more absorbing wager then.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Marital obligations

Also in The Times, but on a slightly lighter note, I enjoyed Gary Slapper's Weird Cases column yesterday. The weird case in question this week concerns a Kenyan man who is suing the leaders of a coalition of women’s groups who organised a seven-day boycott of sexual relations with men, as a protest at the country's economic and political problems. The man has issued civil proceedings, claiming that his wife had refused to honour his conjugal rights because of the campaign. "Whether an absence of sex for seven days is a legally actionable wrong is not specified in most countries", says Slapper. I rather doubt somehow that we will see this tested over here...

What was tested, however, was whether a wife was in breach of her marital obligations when she repeatedly badgered her husband for sex. As Slapper points out, these were the facts of a 1960 divorce case: "To rouse him into copulation she would, in the early hours of the morning, “pull his hair, catch hold of him by the ears, and shake his head violently to and fro”." Unfortunately for the husband, however, by giving in to her demands he was adjudged to have 'condoned her cruelty'.

Divorce work was clearly more interesting back then...

Tagging: A good thing?

My thanks to Jailhouselawyer for drawing my attention to this story in The Times today. It concerns the case of Re A Minor (Family Proceedings: Electronic Tagging) [2009] EWHC 710 (Fam), which was reported back in March. In that case the mother, who had twice wrongfully removed the child from the jurisdiction, agreed to be electronically tagged whilst the child was with her, in order to allay the father's fears that she might try to remove the child again.

The Times states that: "Tagging and curfews could now be extended to hundreds of family court cases where mothers or fathers try to prevent access to children". But is this really the case? As The Times story goes on to point out, only three tagging orders have thus far been made in family cases, and it has been made clear that such orders would ordinarily only be made with the consent of the individual concerned. If this continues to be the situation, then I really cannot see them becoming very common. As for my opinion, I'm in favour of such orders if there is a genuine fear of removal and consent of the person to be tagged - anything that helps to ensure that the child will continue to have a relationship with both parents must, surely, be a good thing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cheeky

OK, perhaps not quite office-safe, but this 'Video E-Card' amused me:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Devil's Advocate

The Sunday Times ran an interesting story this week. It told of a mother who has been denied all contact with her children by the court, after she was found to be turning them against their father. Marilyn Stowe posted about the case yesterday and raised serious concerns about whether the court should have taken such draconian action.

I do not necessarily disagree with Marilyn's comments, but I thought I would have a go at playing devil's advocate. As Marilyn quite rightly says, we do not know the full facts of this case. However, we can (I hope) be sure that the mother's behaviour must have been pretty serious for the court to have taken the action that it did. Let us say, for example, that she did consistently prompt the children to make serious false allegations against the father. Let us say that these included false allegations of physical and sexual abuse. Let us say that despite repeated warnings by the court, she persisted in this behaviour and that as a result the children have suffered serious emotional harm, which will only be made worse by further contact their mother. How, then, is the court to deal with her?

And a couple of other matters. Firstly, the Sunday Times makes a point of telling us that the mother was "the former wife of a rich City financier", as if this makes it an even more appalling decision by the court - after all, ex-wives of rich city financiers do not behave like that, do they? Yes, they do. As with domestic violence, bad behaviour in an acrimonious divorce can be found at all levels of society.

Secondly, and this is just a thought, would this case have made the news if it was the father who was being denied contact with his children?

Monday, May 11, 2009

A sign of the times

This story that appeared on the BBC is surely being repeated up and down the country. Young couple Gemma and Ben purchased a property together, but now their relationship has broken down. The problem is that, due to falling property prices, they can't afford to sell and they are therefore forced to continue to live under the same roof. For the moment, this arrangement seems to be working as they remain on good terms. What, though, is it like for couples who are not?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Another snout in the trough

I usually steer well clear of politics, but I think I may have spotted an opening for us divorce lawyers. According to The Times and others Culture Secretary Andy Burnham (how did we end up with a Culture Secretary called 'Andy'?) was so desperate to get an expenses claim paid to redecorate his flat that he "told the Fees Office that he “might be in line for a divorce” if he did not get the money quickly".

So, naturally I have now become a political animal (another pig perhaps?), and have joined the campaign to stop politicians from making expense claims. I shall be leaving my business card at the entrance to Westminster Palace.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Poll on Possible Library Merger

If you have a view on whether the merger of the Inner Temple and Middle Temple libraries is a good idea, then head over to Charon QC, to take part on the poll he has set up.

Wikivorce Scotland goes live

I have just received the following press release from Wikivorce:

"May 2009: Wikivorce Scotland goes live.

The world's fastest growing divorce support community has launched a new website especially for people going through divorce or separation in Scotland.

Wikivorce is an online divorce support community offering free advice, support and information. It now has nearly 35,000 members. One new person visits the site every minute. It is the most read divorce website in the UK with close to 1 million page views per month.

Wikivorce founder, Ian Rispin, said: "We've been supporting people from Scotland on our English site but the law, process and support organisations in Scotland are very different. Wikivorce is now well established as the leading divorce support website in England, and we felt that it was time to create a fully localised version of the site for the people of Scotland."

The new site will contain a library of information specific to divorce in Scotland; court forms will be available to download together with information about how to fill them in and members will be able to share their stories, support each other and exchange useful advice and information about how to get through the divorce process either with legal representation or without.

One of the most important parts of the site is the forum where members can ask questions about every aspect of divorce and separation. Although there will be sections that are specific to Scottish procedures, members will also be able to receive - and offer - emotional support as part of the Wikivorce support community.

Ruth Mackay is the Scotland site manager; she lives in the Highlands and has been a member of the Wikivorce Community for more than 16 months. She said: "When you first separate, it's a frightening and emotional life-changing situation, information, advice and support can be hard to find. Here at Wikivorce, there is all that and more in one place. For myself and many others, Wikivorce has been a real lifeline. Knowing that you were no longer alone, knowing that there are others on the site going through the same stress and emotional rollercoaster, as well as receiving practical advice has been of immense help to me, and to all the other site members. I have made some very good friends through the site. They have helped me through some dark times and now I am doing my best to help others."

Wikivorce is already the most visited divorce website in the UK, and with further country launches in the pipeline - including Australia and USA, we are well on our way to being the leading divorce and separation site globally.

Please visit the Wikivorce Scotland website to find out more about what we do.

Wikivorce is a social enterprise, we are passionate about our mission to provide information, support and advice to anyone going through divorce or separation."

Divorce is a game played slowly

Divorce, as we all know, can be an unpleasant business. It is not unnatural therefore that those going through it are impatient to get on with their new lives, particularly if they have met someone else. Unfortunately, it is often my duty to reign in such eagerness and to remind clients that "it ain't over 'til it's over". In particular, there are two common scenarios where I may have to disappoint:

1. The client wants to remarry and has fixed a wedding date. Sorry, but this will not normally be sufficient to persuade the court to expedite matters, and I cannot give any guarantee when the divorce will be completed, especially where the other party is the petitioner. Note also that most petitioners will want to wait until a financial/property settlement has been reached before finalising the divorce. Accordingly, don't arrange the wedding, and certainly don't book that expensive honeymoon, until you actually have the decree absolute in your possession.

2. A financial/property settlement has been agreed and the client is to receive a lump sum, which he needs to rehouse himself. He has found a new property to purchase, his offer has been accepted and he has arranged a mortgage. He needs his lump sum before the purchase falls through, or his mortgage offer expires. I have to explain to him that unless his ex agrees, there is nothing I can do to obtain payment of the lump sum until the settlement has been made into a court order, and the divorce has been finalised. Regrettably, this can take considerable time, particularly at some county courts where the wheels of justice move with the speed of an arthritic snail. So, the advice has to be: don't commit yourself until you have the readies in your greasy little mits.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Give me a call

Now this is how I should advertise myself. I was particularly glad that they included the word 'Dramatization' at the beginning:

Family Life

My image of the weekend. Here's the story: Mute swans nest at bottom of Sir Peter Scott's statue.

Friday, May 01, 2009

April Post of the Month

Occasionally, a blog post can cause audible amusement, and this month one post stood out for making me laugh out loud. The author is already the recipient of three Post of the Month trophies, but this does not make me hesitate in awarding the prestigious trophy for a fourth time to Charon QC, for his ingenious invention of 'Smokedo - the way of the smoker'. If you thought smoking was bad for your health, then think again. All is explained in 'Postcard from The House of Lords', my April Post of the Month.

On previous occasions I have awarded Charon QC a prize of the virtual red stuff. However, as he will clearly not be short of a drop or two in the immediate future I think his greatest need will lay in a different direction. Accordingly, the prize will be a year's supply of virtual Nurofen, for those mornings when he has indulged in wine tasting a little too seriously the night before - all in the cause of serious reporting, of course.