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Diary of a Divorce Lawyer: September 202010th September 2020 Family Law
I was recently invited to a garden party at a friend’s home in Teddington. I often find that when I am introduced as a local divorce lawyer at social events, people either avoid me at all cost (especially couples) or keep an eye on me until they find an opportune moment to come and have a ‘chat’. I have lived in the Richmond and Twickenham area for the last ten years. I have been practicing almost exclusively in family law throughout that time and have also been through my own very difficult divorce.
As a specialist divorce lawyer, divorcee and single mother of three children, I have a 360 degree understanding of the difficulties that divorce and the breakdown of the family poses. Divorce and then working as separated co-parents presents one of the most emotionally challenging times in a person's life. Until you have been through it, the experience is difficult to comprehend. Of course, we all deal with the breakdown of a marriage or family in different ways, but there are themes that arise consistently and on which people frequently seek my advice.
On this particular evening I wandered into the garden where I was introduced to Grace, a successful businesswoman.
Her husband of fifteen years is havingan affair with his personal trainer and is moving out of the family home. They placed their property on the market with Websters estate agents earlier that day. Grace thinks it is unfair that her husband should receive half of everything, when she has worked throughout the marriage and he has not. I explain to Grace that every marriage and divorce is different. There are not hard and fast rules regarding division of assets on divorce.
When dividing assets, the court and solicitors take account of various factors. I tell her that the law in this country does not discriminate between the contribution of the breadwinner and homemaker during the marriage and that her husband’s conduct in having an affair with his PT is unlikely to have an impact on the outcome of their settlement. By the time we have finished talking, Grace says she feels slightly better about things, and takes my number to make an appointment to take legal advice next week.
A little later, I am introduced to Jon. Jon is a financial advisor who recently moved in next door. He explained that he and his wife Suzie have separated.
They had been in a virtual court hearing on Zoom that afternoon, trying to resolve child arrangements for their children. The family courts have attempted to continue with as many cases as possible during the pandemic, either by zoom or telephone hearings where appropriate. Jon’s situation is not uncommon. He and Suzie are going through a difficult divorce and they have struggled to agree contact arrangements for their children. Jon wants the children to stay with him half the time and Suzie does not agree.
Jon tells me that during the court hearing a Cafcass Officer (also known asa Family Court Advisor) was appointed to help them agree the arrangements for the children, carry out safeguarding enquiries and then write a detailed report for the court about the children’s
wishes, feelings and needs. A further court hearing has been diarised to consider the report. Jon is concerned that the intervention of the
Cafcass officer will be uncomfortable for the family and particularly the children. I explain that this is not necessarily the case, but of course avoiding a dispute over child arrangements is often the best way of resolving co-parenting issues and less distressing for all. Jon arranges an appointment to see me for an initial consultation the next day.
I leave around 10.30pm. I pass Bushy Park on my way home and see Jen, a client who I represented in court last week.
We successfully obtained a nonmolestation order against her ex-partner, a successful architect, who had become increasingly harassing towards her in the last few months. She tells me that he has not been in touch since the court hearing and she is optimistic that he will leave her alone. She certainly seems much less stressed than she was last week.