Press score an own goal - Family Law Partners

Press score an own goal

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First, let me declare an interest in this issue. I really dislike celebrity culture, and in particular, the ‘celebretariat’ (Toby Young’s word to explain people who are famous for being famous!). The aspiration some people have to be famous misses a massive beat with me. The insatiable desire of the press to report on celebrity irritates me and having seen another Diana documentary with my wife over the holidays has had tragic consequences. But they wouldn’t write it if ‘we’ didn’t read it, right? So, let’s be honest it’s a societal issue and like it or not, ‘we’ are part of the problem.

Ok I’ll move on. The purpose of this – belated – comment on the big ‘news’ of a Decree Nisi being pronounced. I accept I read it. I did so as I had read a number of blogs on it. I went to the source material (the usual suspects were seeing this as a newsworthy event). The Redknapps to be precise. The irony of the story is – if to be believed – the celebrity impact of Strictly led to a renaissance in Louise’s career. I don’t buy that. Strong marriages would survive that. There was likely to be something deeper behind the breakup. Do I want to know? No, I do not. That is a matter for them and – as the law stands – their lawyers and the court. Let’s give them privacy, show them some respect and dignity and do what we can to ensure their children do not have more to deal with than the already immensely sad life event they will be coping with for years to come.

The fascination that celebs get a divorce any quicker than anyone else is pure fantasy. (As an aside, I reckon I must have one of the quickest divorces going, but I’m sure there are examples that will make mine sound like it took a relative an age, of completing a divorce within a calendar month. Yes, one month. From issue on 1/8/16 to Decree Absolute on 31/8/16!? And to be absolutely clear, there was not a celebrity in sight. Just two people who wanted to end their marriage and needed to do so urgently.)

The ‘news’ the Judge ended the Redknapp’s marriage because Louise could not ‘reasonably be expected to live with the respondent’ (i.e. Jamie) is taken from an Act of Parliament. Here is the link. It’s not news (nor has it been since 1973!). Absent adultery, they would have remained married for at least two years from the date they separated. And here is the crux. They would have agreed to divorce, as hard as that decision probably was for both of them to make. They are likely to have wanted the process concluded as quickly as possible (but a little longer than the 25 second ‘hearing’ – was it really that long! – which rarely any one other than the press attends) rather than having to wait. Absent a fling and behaviour is your only choice unless you wait two years and both agree to divorce.

And with reference to a respondent’s ‘behaviour’ then the innuendo starts. What did he really do which was ‘so’ unreasonable as to warrant a divorce. The answer is often very little, but enough to satisfy a judge. Quite often one party will invite the other to start the process. They become the ‘respondent’. What dark behaviour were they up to? Probably only newsworthy enough to wrap your fish, chips and mushy peas in.

Let’s imagine the conversation at a new appointment:

Lawyer – why do you think your marriage is at an end and have you considered couples counselling?

Client – we did try counselling, but we realise we’ve just grown apart. We just don’t get on. It’s no one’s fault. No one else is involved. We just know we can’t live together and do not want the children to have modelled to them a loveless relationship. We can just get divorced can’t we?

Lawyer – sadly not, as you’ve not been separated for at least two years you need to say the other has acted unreasonably, your spouse has committed adultery or wait.

Client – but no one else is involved and they are a great parent – will it be public, will the children see it?

The conversation moves on to a discussion of the present law and trying to make the petition as anodyne as possible. Far too much time and money can be spent on the wording of a petition. Please do not use it to vent about the marriage. Deal with those issues with some proper emotional support before allowing feelings to potentially set the scene for the divorce.

When using the collaborative model, the petition is often drafted with the use of a family consultant or in one of the meetings. Come what may, drafts are shared, tweaks are made, the process starts and the ‘reason’ (which save in very limited and rare cases will ever have any relevance in relation to the children and/or money), gets the process started. It’s then generally forgotten about. It is not about one divorcing the other, but ‘the divorce’ i.e. their mutual agreement to separate and end their marriage (and with that a hope it can be done with dignity, inexpensively, by agreement and in a way they can co-parent in as positive a way as possible going forward). They will want to look forward. They do not want a trawl through the dirty washing of their relationships and if they don’t, what right do others have?

What’s my point? Just leave people alone to get over the trauma of their relationships ending and significantly, avoid any further upset for their children. And when the likes of Resolution’s Nigel Shepherd leads the call for #nofaultdivorce for the sake of all those unfortunate enough to be in a marriage that is ending, please listen and provide your support. After all, it could be you one day.

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