Tuesday, March 09, 2010

"As humans, we need to evolve more"

A very light news morning this morning was made more entertaining by a piece in The Independent about "America's divorce king" Gerald Nissenbaum, coinciding with the publication of his book, Divorce Confidential. Nissenbaum has been practising divorce in Boston for some 40 years and his client list is described as "almost exclusively rich beyond reason". That may be pretty much the opposite of the way I would describe my old client list (although many of them were still beyond reason), but nevertheless much of what he has to say echoes my own experiences of practising family law.

Nissenbaum explains how relationship breakdown brings out the worst in many people, especially where children are involved. "Every parent who has ever pushed for custody insists he or she is doing it out of love," he says in his book. "Hate is more like it.... Parents throw everything they have at the other side, the more disgusting, horrendous and despicable, the better." Yep: been there, done that.

He also explains how he has had to retain a sense of humour, despite the nature of the work. He says: "if I didn't laugh at some of the silliness these people do to one another, or the outrage, I'd have ridden my high horse straight into an institution by now". Yep, I can relate to that. He then gives a hilarious example, involving a client who had married a man in the process of transgendering.

But the best part of the article comes at the end, when Nissenbaum is asked whether, after four decades doing this work, he has learned a lot about the human condition. "I have, yes," he replies, "I have learned that we have a way to go yet. As humans, we need to evolve more, I think." Oh yes, I certainly concur with that one.

9 comments:

  1. A genuine question: how are the laws of perjury applied in the family courts? I've heard of some fairly wild accusations of criminal behaviour (usually child abuse) and ludicrous claims for the level of maintenance required, but never of anyone being brought to account for these.

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  2. A good question, too. They do apply, but I, too, never came across anyone being brought to account, at least in any of my cases. It does happen occasionally (as stated by Lord Justice Wilson in Mahon v Mahon), but in family cases it is often very difficult to prove that the 'perjurer' does not genuinely believe the truth of their allegations. It is probably also true to say that litigants in family proceedings are given more 'slack' than in other proceedings, in view of the emotional nature of the proceedings.

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  3. Nick Langford10 March 2010 08:55

    What does Nissenbaum want us to evolve into; lawyers?

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  4. Women perhaps. Wasn't there an article about the X chromosone being in decline. Also possible to have children from two eggs without sperm. Also law from last year no longer requires there to be a father for conception or children's lives or adoption.

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  5. woman on a raft11 March 2010 19:56

    law from last year no longer requires there to be a father for conception or children's lives or adoption.

    Depends on if you mean 'living father'.

    I don't understand most of the objections as the pass was sold in the Diane Blood case where not only was sperm used without the explicit permission of the deceased (by defining it as part of the deceased's effects and hence heritable property) but by registering the dead man as the children's father, which is, after all, only an accurate reflection of the biological situation.

    Similar situations arise routinely now where men being treated for cancer deposit sperm first, just in case.

    If we aren't bothered by a bloke being dead before conception then there is no point in objecting to the rest of it. I can't fathom the difference between a woman using sperm from a donor whom she knew but who is absent due to being dead, and a woman who uses sperm from a donor she doesn't know and who isn't going to be around either.

    Surely the consistent thing is they are either both allowed or both refused.

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  6. Well, I think you are wrong. It is undermining fatherhood to donate sperm in the knowledge that you will not be involved in the upbringing of the child or that there will be no father figure involved.

    That is why I did not donate sperm anonymously as a student (even though the money would have been useful for beer and food) and would not now. Not contradicting myself or being a hypocrite at all. If I was to die of cancer and my partner was to have my child after I died I like to think I would be in the child's life and he / she would apprecite me as his / her father.

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  7. So, with re to 'I can't fathom the difference between a woman using sperm from a donor whom she knew but who is absent due to being dead, and a woman who uses sperm from a donor she doesn't know and who isn't going to be around either.'

    The difference is massive and is the difference between equality and the decline in the X chromosone.

    Exaggerating my point a little, but I hope you see where I am coming from. Not sure it is just me either. I know of two women who have got pregnant recently with anonymous sperm donations (from sperm bank) and think that is wrong and is wrong that it is increasingly happening. Do feel threatened by that as a man. Think it sad that their children will not know a father. Think Fathers for Justics and Families Need Fathers were appropriately named.

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