Fifty Shades of Grey

IMG_6002Read what our South East Consultant, Lewis Hulatt, of Major Family Law, the best Divorce and family law solicitors, says:

My parents are due to reach 60 years of marriage later this year and my wife’s parents have already smashed through the 50 year mark. Together that is more than a century of marriage experience.

Neither side has ‘silver splitters’, but I can understand how it can happen. My wife may jokingly enquire what the journey was like from my upstairs man-cave (office) to the kitchen, but as a consultant working over the internet, I no longer spend an hour or two each day in traffic.  I work within the sound of the coffee machine which punctuates the day.

Like somebody at retirement, I would be ‘under my wife’s feet’ should she not be at work herself and when I initially stopped travelling to work, my wife was at home with a broken foot, so we spent a lot more time together than we were used to.  Amongst other things, we started to bake bread together – with me nimbly evading her protective boot.  We adjusted, but sometimes couples have lived fairly separate lives whilst working and cannot cope with spending so much time together at retirement, despite their shared memories.  Separation is like a bereavement in that there is a loss of the person who can fill in detail, correct or remind.  That can be particularly difficult for ‘silver splitters’.

I mentioned that to a lady over 60 who laughed when she told me that she didn’t have the time nor energy to train up another husband.

As well as sorting out sensible arrangements on separation, we can help with moving forward.   People cohabiting or re-marrying later in life often wish to avoid conflict with their children and a Cohabitation/Pre-Nuptial Agreement can reduce the suspicion of financial opportunism.

Parlour Games and Cash-Machines: Men in divorce

ProfileRead what Lewis Hulatt, South East Consultant with Major Family Law, the best divorce and family law solicitors, says:

At the weekend, I read a thought-provoking article in the Sunday Times written by Martin Daubney entitled “Divorced men doomed to life as a cash machine” which took a bleak view of ongoing support obligations. In support, he cited Ray Parlour’s wife getting an unprecedented ongoing settlement. That was in 2004 and rarely repeated since. As men tend to be the higher earners they are more often the payers of support. It was an odd point at which to come to his conclusion that men are ‘cash-machines’ in 2017.
Case law on spousal support is not like that – even going back to the 1980s and the beginning of my career in law. Particularly over the last few years, the trend that we have seen has been towards the expectation of independence.
Perhaps the problem lies in the manner in which such Orders are made. The norm has been to order support indefinitely and expect the situation to be brought back before the court for review. I recently advised about an order made over a decade before which was had no ‘expiry date’ and therein lies the problem – in circumstances where the ex-wife had cohabited with another man for years, had a subsequent child and had inherited considerable wealth and a business, it fell to the less affluent payer to get support terminated.
Judges rarely consider either the expense or the stress of court applications. Faced with expense and uncertainty, it is little wonder that men often endure the corrosive resentment of paying.
Payers should not be ‘cash-machines’ but it is a systemic problem not the fault of the spouses.
As a family law solicitor who also worked as a mediator, I discuss these issues of review both with the payer or the receiver.

Martin’s article:

Considering divorce: are you tangled up in thoughts or thinking clearly?

graemeRead what Graeme Armstrong, Family Consultant, with Major Family Law, the leading divorce and children law specialist in the North East, says:

There are few marriages that run their course without one or both partners wondering if “I’d be better off alone,” yet it’s quite another thing to take that step into separation or divorce.

In nearly 20 years of counselling individual and couples I have never experienced a person going into divorce lightly; the depth of emotional investment created in couple relationships seem to exclude any superficial response to divorce.

To take a step back, we could say that there are 4 domains to divorce:

  • the legal
  • the financial
  • the parental
  • the emotional

It’s in the last two domains where I consider my area of work, helping individuals and couples untangle the often decades old spaghetti junction of their relationship with its dreams and disappointments in order to pursue a clearer drive through.

It’s in the fourth domain that often our troubles arise. Our emotional life, its wellbeing, psychology, hopes, dreams, sexual and spiritual longings become the very relationship dynamics that we get caught up in and drive us, often traumatically, in divorce. It’s true to say that often what brought us together, pulls us apart.

What occurs during the breaking of the relational bond is a sudden activation of our old brain, which becomes super-aroused. This is the part of us that is bound up in flight or fight, our amygdala gets hijacked and the couple who were once joined at the hip are now joined at the hippocampus in what seems to be a very primitive battle for survival.

Making clear, reflective decisions at this time, choices that will profoundly impact on a life for decades to come can be hugely difficult. “How do I know I’m doing the right thing?” is a question I hear time and time again.

Quite frankly, if you are asking yourself (and me) that question, you probably don’t know-yet-if you are doing the right thing.

So, don’t decide. Take time. Talk it through. Get help. Process. Get more help.

The end of your marriage is not the end of your life, it’s really a new beginning, but in the pain and trauma that might be leading up to making the move into divorce, in the tangled thoughts and emotions here are some questions you might like to ask yourself

  1. Do I believe I’ve outgrown this relationship?
  2. What would it feel like to be in this relationship for another 5 years?
  3. If I go forwards with this separation and/or divorce, what help do I need to stay on track for my family, for my work?
  4. Am I thinking clearly here or caught up in tangled emotions?

Take time. Talk it through. Get help. Your future deserves it.

Don’t let Christmas drive you Crackers

  1. p131940-(2)Lewis Hulatt, South East Consultant with Major Family Law, the best divorce and children lawyers, comments:

    It must be nearly Christmas for real – not the phoney Christmas created by supermarkets which these days is interrupted by Halloween.  Trick or Treat?  I have never been sure that criminal law is suspended on October 31st so demanding (sweets) with menaces, assault (causing fear of battery) or behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace (annoying grumpy householders) are equally to be punished as administering noxious substances (covering Brussel sprouts in chocolate) or threatening behaviour (answering the door with a real axe in hand) [Query to self is that going too far?]

    Halloween is supposed to be ghoulish and celebrate the Dark Side, whereas Christmas falling close to the winter solstice is meant to bring us cheer and the celebration of hope and light as the length of night gradually recedes. You have got to give the established church credit for choosing a good date for a focus for hope.

    However, modern Halloween is probably more light-hearted than most people feel about Christmas.

    Christmas is a pressured time – there are the practical and family-political arrangements to make (who gets Great Aunt ‘Smelly’ Nelly this year?) and having the glory of carving the turkey should be earned not expected simply due to alpha-male virility.  Inviting home a group of golfing buddies or hangers-on from the rugby club without consulting the cook is not going to earn a husband any Christmas treats.  Equally, failing to disabuse the children that anything they ask for is up for discussion may not be diplomatic when unexpected bills have shrunk the funds available.  Pressure comes from many places – wanting to please families and friends, practicalities that involve time/effort and financial pressures.

    Pressure Cooker

    Where there is pressure, there is scope for conflict and failing to think about or discuss the allotment of finite resources such as money, time or emotional energy makes it more likely that a couple will look back with regret over the fouled-up turkey or dog’s dinner of a Christmas pud. The pressure to have ‘a good Christmas’ is not restricted to Santa’s elves, so when it fails to meet expectations, it is a source of dissatisfaction generally and the other person will often be blamed. “That’s the last Christmas I put up with him/her…”

    There is still time to discuss arrangements before the pressure builds up.





Government Rejects Rescindment of Divorce Fee Rise

Lucinda Connell profileLucinda Connell, Associate Solicitor with Major Family, the leading divorce and children law specialists, comments:

Earlier this year, the fee payable to Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service to issue divorce petitions rose (virtually overnight) from £410 to a whopping £550. The House of Commons Justice Committee recommended that this increase should be rescinded, a recommendation that the Government has rejected.  In its response to the Committee’s recommendations concerning court and tribunal fees, the Ministry of Justice said:

“Help is available to those who qualify under the fee remissions scheme, known as Help with Fees, which helps to ensure that those who are unable to pay are not denied access to justice. In the circumstances of a divorce (or any other matter where the parties have a contrary interest in proceedings) the applicant is assessed on his or her own, rather than the household’s, means. On this basis, women are more likely to qualify for a fee remission than men.

The new fee of £550 for a divorce came into effect on 21 March. Although it is too soon to draw any firm conclusions, there is no evidence so far that the fee increase has led to a fall in applications for a divorce. We are continuing to monitor the position carefully. Overall, we believe that the fee for a divorce is reasonable when considered against the objectives, generating an estimated £12 million per annum in additional fee income as a contribution to the savings required to make sure that the courts and tribunals are properly funded, and that access to justice is protected.”

Bob Neill MP, Chair of the Justice Committee, said the following in relation to the Government’s response:

“It is disappointing that the Government Response is so negative in respect of the Justice Committee’s recommendations; perhaps more concerning is that it is almost offensively perfunctory, appearing to have been rushed out at short notice and giving little evidence of attention paid to the Committee’s detailed evidence and analysis. This is all the more surprising given that Government has had more than four months to produce this reply. I therefore intend to raise this matter and possible further steps with the Committee at our next meeting.”

UK Government Opting In To Updated European Family Law

Lucinda Connell silhouetteLucinda Connell, Associate Solicitor at Major Family Law, the best divorce and family law specialists, comments:

The European Commission has proposed a new Regulation to replace the wordy but well known (to family lawyers at least) Regulation 2201/2003 which is more commonly known as Brussels IIa. This is the law which deals with cross-border family matters and is adopted by EU member states.  It is known mostly for its use in determining which member state has jurisdiction to hear a family law case in instances where this may be disputed, together with its use in child abduction cases.  The EC proposals aims to provide clearer deadlines for certain procedures.

Notwithstanding Brexit, Sir Oliver Heald (Minister of State for Courts and Justice) noted in a written statement to the House of Commons that Brussels IIa has applied since 1 March 2005 and is the main instrument for families involved in cross-border divorce or children proceedings. It establishes rules to decide which EU Member State’s courts can determine divorce and other matrimonial matters, and parental responsibility matters (including residence and contact), and how orders arising from these cases can be recognised and enforced in another Member State. It also provides rules on the return of children abducted to, or wrongfully retained in, other Member States (usually by one parent), which supplement the international 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention. He added:

“Following an evaluation of the current Regulation the Commission’s proposal aims to improve its use by providing clearer deadlines for certain procedures; making it easier for judgments to be recognised and enforced in another Member State; clarifying and streamlining certain parts of cross-border child abduction proceedings; removing the possibility that a court will refuse to enforce a judgment on the basis that it would have applied different national rules to whether a child should have been heard in the proceedings; and clarifying and improving the procedures for cooperation between authorities. Notwithstanding the result of the referendum on EU membership the Government considers it is in the UK’s interests to opt in to this proposal. Firstly the UK already applies the current Regulation to the benefit of UK citizens, including children, in cross-border families, and it wants to avoid the risk that, if the new Regulation comes into force before the UK’s exit, and the UK has not opted in to the Regulation, the existing Regulation will no longer apply to the UK because it might be deemed inoperable. This might mean for a period of time no EU instrument regulates these matters for UK families even though the UK is still a Member State. Secondly, even after a UK exit the Regulation will affect UK citizens, principally in other Member States, and it is in the UK’s interests to influence the negotiations. As a family justice measure, this proposal must be agreed by unanimity in the Council.

During the negotiations the Government will aim to make sure that what is agreed respects national competence, limits any impacts on domestic law and procedures and minimises any additional burdens on the courts and the authorities that will use the new Regulation.”


Naked Ambition

p131940-(2)Lewis Hulatt, South East Consultant at Major Family Law, the best divorce and family lawyers, comments:

Our cable box records ‘suggestions’ and whilst it routinely fills up the 50 slots inappropriately, it also finds shows that intrigue.   As part of our deliberate viewing includes ‘First Dates’ in which hopefuls of all ages veer between enchanting and excruciating, it recorded ‘Naked Attraction’ a dating show where Anna Richardson presents the singleton with six naked persons.  Each datee is initially shown from the waist down and they are gradually eliminated as more is revealed to the dater.  When there are two, the dater also gets ‘nekkid’ before the choice is made.  At home, we often guess wrongly.

A little of the date (clothed) is shown and then they are interviewed. Such meat-market selection does not seem to be particularly successful: recently one candidate did not even turn up for the interview, much to the embarrassment of the dater.  I don’t recall such lack of cooperation on ‘First Dates’ or on the rare occasions we have seen ‘Take Me Out’.  I had not heard Paddy McGuinness announcing ‘Let the terrier see the rats!’ until after I saw on Facebook that a couple of friends of a friend had been on.   Baring your butt on TV is one thing (exhibitionism), but it seems only a fraction as humiliating as being on Paddy’s show: whilst the women may start with control of the button for ‘No likey, no lighty’ there is a whiff of desperation when the table is turned and the guy extinguishes the lights of hope, leaving one (relieved) datee to go on a trip to the eternal sunshine ‘Isle of Fernando’s’ (Puerto de la Cruz, actually).  Post-date, McGuinness could have added some vintage cheese with ‘Have you flown in from Paradise?’ to elicit ‘Nah – Luton Airport!’.  I heard that a lot when I went away to college – slightly less refined that my friend Julia’s ‘Surrey’ which used to get ‘I’ll repeat that for yer me duck’…

Whenever you hear ‘She’s a great gel…’ or ‘He was a real gentleman…’ you know there is going to be a ‘but’.   In the case of ‘Naked Attraction’ the difference is that you have seen the butt already.

Anyhow, trash-TV apart, whichever way people go about choosing a partner, it sometimes does not last forever. We family lawyers can sort out the legalities when it doesn’t.





No Vice Penguins

ProfileLewis Hulatt, South East consultant with Major Family Law, the divorce and family law specialists, comments:

I have no idea what is taught in school as to ‘morality’ these days.  It seems unlikely that many of us have gone through the Sister Act experience of earnest matrons lecturing us on ‘sin’ or enduring a brutal masterclass in punishing bad language such as Kathleen Freeman gave as The Penguin in ‘The Blues Brothers’.  Of the two, I prefer Dame Maggie Smith who was clearly a superior Mother.   Dame Maggie always brings something to the part and starting out unsympathetic, she discloses an underlying wisdom and understanding of worldliness which she applies for the benefit of others including Whoopi Goldberg’s nun on the run, novice Sister Mary Clarence.  Both films are good clean fun – sort of!

It being about 40 years since I had RE at school under our own Penguin, I am a bit rusty on The Seven Deadly Sins and had to research them.

Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath and Sloth can endanger relationships: I probably mentioned an amicable divorce I handled where sloth was to blame – not the Gogglebox Sloth (Neal), but the inattention that the husband embodied in not being bothered his wife was off getting a bit of Lust providing she didn’t distract him from defeating the end-boss when she came in. There is tolerance and there is indifference.  One ‘sin’ begat another, but they showed some virtues too and were a likeable un-coupled pair.

Not as well-known as the Dark Side’s Seven Deadly Sins, the counterpart Seven Heavenly Virtues are the Cinderella Brides for Seven Brothers.

Owing to their innate niceness, the Virtues smile fondly at the more famous Three Graces who always get the limelight prancing around in gauzy costumes.   Such is their modesty, I had to look up the Virtues and found them rather pertinent to sustaining a healthy relationship – so the Seven are:

Chastity                                consideration in sexual conduct and health

Temperance                         not ‘losing it’

Charity                                  not just about money – generosity of attitude and tone

Diligence                              being supportive

Patience                              tolerance – forgiveness

Kindness                              unselfishness – empathy

Humility                               self-honesty – open-mindedness – valuing others – doing what it takes

Put that way, the Seven Virtues sound positive and modern thus not a girl group for Simon Cowell!

The Seven Virtues – coming to a good relationship near you!


p131940-(2)Lewis Hulatt, South East Consultant with Major Family Law, the divorce and family law specialists, comments:

I was not much of a watcher of US sitcom ‘Friends’.  I vaguely recall non-stop ‘hilarity’ announced by either an over-enthusiastic studio audience or a much-valued laughter track.

Back in the day, late-night radio presenters survived on provoking callers into killing dead-air by encouraging tin-foil hatters to express their obsessions and delusions and whilst Trevor of Dulwich or Edna of Ealing may have been happy to consider themselves ‘a friend of the show’, the laughter was ‘at’, rather than ‘with’ them. The radio presenters may have sounded ‘friendly’ but they were not ‘friends’ any more than the cast of the sitcom had to be anything more than work-colleagues.  Business is business and laughter is often at somebody else’s expense.

Real ‘friends’ are the people who have earned the right to be honest through being supportive, but when a relationship has broken down, even good friends can call it wrong.  People outside of the relationship do not always recognise the dynamic and often do not understand what their friend ever saw in Miss X or Mr Y.  It is not just a case of not knowing the secrets of the bedroom (which sometimes explains a lot!), but even old friends may not understand the dynamics of their friends’ relationships and even less be able to take into account feelings which may not be clear even to the person undergoing them.

In all that uncertainty and confusion, what helps?

‘I told you so!’ ‘She was never good enough for you’ and ‘I didn’t like to say, but he…’ are probably some of the least helpful things.   Saying what we think the person wants to hear – to validate their ‘rightness’ and their partner’s ‘wrongness’ at the end of the relationship is rarely the action of a good friend.   As a family lawyer, I give people the opportunity to express their ambivalence and uncertainty and I strive to never put people ‘on a conveyor belt’ where they start by asking about their situation and end up with a Decree Absolute in their hand in a lonely room.  Clients need to be making their own decisions and if they attempt reconciliation, they do not want the shame of doing so after all their friends have bad-mouthed their once-again partner.

Listen and remember that whatever you think, they might want to get back together.

A friend has two good ears and one cautious mouth.




Under the thumb

p131940-(2)Lewis Hulatt, South East Consultant with Major Family Law, the best divorce and family law specialists, comments:

At the weekend, I went to celebrate the wedding of a young couple setting out on married life for the first time and I was there as a guest through my wife, so did had met very few of the people before.   My ice-breaker was my confession that I was a divorce lawyer and one couple, contemplating re-marriage asked me about Pre-Nuptial Settlements.   Now that the inclination of the courts is to accept such settlements as binding if they are fair and meet certain other criteria, we see an increasing number of people asking about them – both Pre-Nuptial Settlements for people contemplating marriage and Post-Nuptial Settlements for married couples who want some certainty about what should happen if they were to split.  Indeed, I took instructions only last week for a Post-Nuptial Settlement for a couple trying a reconciliation, but wanting some certainty should it be unsuccessful.   I am hoping that for them it will be an easier discussion in an atmosphere of hope, than one taking place amid the emotional devastation of irretrievable breakdown.  One of the helpful aspects of settlements is that it can lessen the hostility of adult children to their parents’ spouses:  often children are defensive of their parents and want to protect them against exploitation as well as protect their inheritances.  I was consulted for that reason a couple of years ago and the re-marrying older couple eventually decided to make their wishes known by letting the children see their Wills, but in my professional opinion a Pre-Nuptial Settlement would have been better, even if more expensive.

My wife cut her thumb so badly she needed hospital treatment last week and on returning to work with bandaged hand, the teenager she was helping had the first reaction of ‘How are you going to text?’ rather than worrying about the pain.  Anyhow, one pleasing aspect of the reception was that people were only using their mobile phones to take pictures and even that mainly of the couple’s first dance, cutting the cake and suchlike.  For a crowd of tech-savvy people, many younger than myself, it was a refreshing change that people were engaging with each other.

We do Settlements for conflict reduction or avoidance and wish the couple well. If it goes well, John and Sam will have their silver wedding when we have golden.

Any photographs purporting to show me Gangnam Style might be faked…