Sunday, March 30, 2008

Changing Places

One piece of advice for divorcing couples seen frequently is try to see things from the perspective of the other side. An extension of that idea that worked well for me was imagining that my ex-spouse was one of our children, and treating him like I would want someone to treat them should they ever be unfortunate enough to be in the same predicament.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Giggling Fits

Today was brightened up as I was driving from my early morning swim when Charlotte Green, BBC Radio 4 newsreader, had a fit of giggles after playing a clip of the oldest recording of the human voice. Apparently Charlotte lost control when a studio member remarked Clar de Lune sounded like a "bee buzzing in a bottle" (I thought it sounded like gargling.) Unfortunately, as I have experienced, attacks of the giggles have the tendency to happen at the most inappropriate moments and on this occasion it was during an item about the death of the Hollywood screenwriter Abby Mann. A link to the recording is in this Herald report.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sunday Times Rich List

I have little interest in the private lives of the rich and famous and have tried to avoid the saga of McCartney/Mills divorce, but it is proving impossible. The Telegraph reports today Heather Mills has employed forensic accounts to challenge the valuation of Paul McCartney's assets to 'encourage' him to make 'discrete' maintenance payments for their daughter. In the divorce proceedings Paul McCartney claimed his assets were worth £400m, although the Sunday Times Rich List 2007 estimated the value of £825m. This was reminiscent of the Deas divorce reported here in the Scotsman during 2002.

At the time it was alleged in the media that Alex Deas, an entrepreneur, had been worth more than £400m during the mid-nineties and had been included in the Sunday Times Rich List. I remember this couldn't be verified, although I knew in the mid-nineties he had an investment in a technology company that had been valued at $490m. A year or so later the technology bubble burst and the technologies were sold to a Taiwanese company at a much reduced price. Dr Deas share was worth £4.2m. Whether his inclusion in the Sunday Times Rich List was a complete delusion or the figure of £490m was misquoted remains a mystery, but either way I fear the Sunday Times or the Scotsman had not done their homework.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Purchasing a Marital Home

Tom Quail, family law specialist, advises how conveyancers can avoid negligence claims from couples purchasing a matrimonial home in this month's edition of the Law Society of Scotland's Journal. This is because in Scotland assets accrued between the dates of marriage and separation form the matrimonial acquest, but the matrimonial home is treated differently. Someone who contributes personal funds from their pre-matrimonial assets is not guaranteed the investment back.

There are three options to protect an investment:

• Title could be taken in unequal shares.

• A second security could be taken over the property in favour of the husband [or wife].

• A pre-marriage contract or a cohabitation agreement could be signed, recording that the funds being introduced by the husband [or wife] are not matrimonial property.

None of the above are without problems ( the first two do not guarantee recoupment) and there is a conflict of interest in advising both husband and wife, so each party would need to take independent advice. It is suggested the way around that would be for the conveyancer to explain the options; terms of business should be sent to each client individually and these should be signed and returned. Advice is the same for cohabitants as that for a married or civil partnership couple.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Recommended Reading

Sometimes I am asked which books I found useful when we were divorcing. The first was the Which ? Guide to Divorce which explains in simple terms how divorce works and the financial implications. Although this is primarily aimed at those living in England & Wales there are a couple of pages outlining the differences in Scotland.

The second book, Families and How to Survive Them by Robin Skynner and John Cleese, wasn't particularly related to divorce but it was one I was familiar with from when I worked in mental health. It isn't a new book, although I would say that this definitely is one of the best books on family relationships and child social development for non-professionals. This book isn't pop psychology, the content is very well well-grounded in scientific ideas. It looks at how families influence children and what problems might arise and how to avoid them. Inevitably it includes some humour and funny sketches.

Both books are easily read and were about as much as I could take in at the time.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Wikivorce Idol

Groan... I'll probably live to regret this, but Wikivorce has it's own Idol competition and yours truly has entered. What's really embarrassing is my children swear it's a true likeness!

It's worth having a look at Attilla the swinging solicitor and Mike62, Wikivorce's real Basil Fawlty. I'm looking forward to Peter Moore and Nigel Bradshaw from Bradshaw, Dixon and Moore getting in on the act too.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Religion, Maths & Networking

The Economist has three items of particular interest, the first looks at Explaining Religion a multi-disciplinary study currently underway in 14 universities in different countries into the biological reasons why so many people believe in God, gods and religion in general. It seems group selection might explain the evolution of morality, and morality and religion are closely connected. The conclusions of the three year study are sure to be enlightening.

Secondly, Let's Talk About Figures considers the international communication of mathematics and that whilst the brightest mathematicians often are recruited from communist or ex-communist countries "importing fully-trained brains will become less viable as “exporting” countries develop their own systems of higher learning."

Lastly this article looks at the business of social networking and that it isn't making as much money as had been hoped. Apparently a problem for users is not being open to the web although this might be overcome through using good old fashion web-mail.

I was going to say this post has nothing to do with divorce, but I've changed my mind. Religion and social networking are all in one way or another relate to marriage and divorce. The concentration required by a mathematician to the exclusion of all else could well be the cause of neglecting a relationship.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy Easter!


Rome III

This was a very busy week for me finally catching up after a prolonged absence from work and attending my Aunt's 90th birthday (every family should have an Aunt Bess!)

One Family Law Week article I did see and took a note of was An Interview with Lord Justice Thorpe. Of particular interest was the stalling of Rome III negotiations as I mentioned in this earlier post. Having lived and worked for much of my life within international communities in Europe I agree with the Lord Justice that the English (and Scottish) family justice system must remain positive about moves to harmonise matrimonial regimes in the EU.

However, that is far removed from member countries applying divorce laws from another country in which the divorcing couple had their most recent residence. This proposal doesn't go down well with staunch Roman Catholic countries such as Malta or Poland who are against making divorce easier. Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands oppose it because they believe Rome III would lead to the enforcement of Islamic laws in EU countries. Personally, I think the application of a foreign law in the courts of EU member countries is too fraught with difficulties for the proposal to be viable.


Monday, March 17, 2008

They Think It's All Over

Divorce is never edifying, so I for one was looking forward to the end of McCartney v Mills today and the media frenzy with the release of a summary of the judgment. However, overtime is now on the cards as Heather Mills appeals the court's ruling that the judgment should be published. Doh..


Friday, March 14, 2008

Financial Adviser

Continuing the financial theme, here is a well known sketch which illustrates why I am my own financial adviser.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Riding Roughshod Over Offshore Trusts?

After my post about Dr Ditch-Her offshore tax havens have become flavour of the week. Following a link from Current Awareness it appears at a conference in Provence earlier this month the chief justice of the Cayman Islands has fueled expectation of a stand- off when Beverly Charman asks Bermudan courts to 'give effect' to Mr Justice Coleridge ruling that assets held there should be taken into account in her divorce settlement. It should be interesting to see how it turns out.


Returning Children to France

Further to my earlier post Hague Convention & Discretion is this recent Court of Session opinion on an international abduction case brought by a French mother for the return of the three younger out of four children.

During October 2003 the French Family Court affirmed the residence arrangements for the respective children with both parents being prohibited from removing the children from French territory without the consent of the other. On about 3 July 2005, the father removed all four from the jurisdiction of the French Courts and flew them to Switzerland and then on to Bangkok. They remained in South East Asia until December 2007 when they returned to Dundee.

Throughout that time the petitioner sought to establish their whereabouts and in France criminal charges were brought against the father, and his sister who had helped him. In light of the children's removal and in November 2006 he was found guilty, in his absence, and sentenced to a period of 30 months imprisonment. Subsequently the father was arrested and appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 22 November 2007 when he did not consent to his extradition and was released on bail.

It was submitted on behalf of the mother that it had not been demonstrated that the children were now settled in their new environment, in terms of article 12 of the Hague Child Abduction Convention and sought an order for the return of each child to France. The court considered (1) the meaning of the phrase "the child is now settled in its new environment" and (2) if it was proved that the children were so settled did the court nevertheless retain a residual discretion to order the child's return. The court here looked at the conduct of the father in determining if the children were settled in their new environment.

Lord Turnbull accounted for the policy of the Convention as one of a number of other factors and thought the facts of Re M were quite different from the facts of this case. As sought by their mother an order for the children's return to France was made.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Would You Trust This Man?

A week or so ago someone posted an article on a divorce forum "Former lawyer launches nutjob website" along with this link. What Dr Ditch-Her has written on his home pages and blog makes the man appear bitter and twisted. He claims he was done over in his divorce, retired to Switzerland and has launched a consultancy to try to prevent other men from landing up in a similar position. Dr D claims he was a lawyer for over 25 years, working at a top 25 firm and offers his services to help men conceal how much money they have and stop women "going after your assets via your genitals".

Using my browser I traced the article to RollOnFriday, a UK website that provides news, views and gossip on the legal profession. However, the Dr D domain name is registered in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, which is a well known tax haven and might explain why he wants to be paid in $. As one forum member pointed out Dr D doesn't identify himself or say where he qualified, which country's laws he is abiding by or advising on - and nobody knows how or where to sue him in the event that they got clobbered by the Court because he gave them bad advice, for which they had to pay.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Poor Mental Health in Children

The anxiety epidemic: Why are children so unhappy? in the Independent is yet another article mentioning that family breakdown is damaging children's mental health. However, the figures in this Office of National Statistics 2005 news release reveal that children in different family types fare just as badly or even worse.

It is true that the prevalence of mental disorders was found greater among children in single parent families (16%) when compared to two-parent families (8%) but it was also high;-

• in families whose interviewed parent had no educational qualifications (17 per cent) compared with those who had a
degree level qualification (four per cent);

• in families with neither parent working (20 per cent) compared
with those in which both parents worked (eight per cent);

• in families with a gross weekly household income of less than
£100 (16 per cent) compared with those with an income of
£600 or more (five per cent).


Monday, March 10, 2008

'Shirley Valentine'

BBC News reports a woman sentenced to a suspended 13 week jail term and unpaid work after going abroad with her boyfriend for 6 weeks whilst leaving her 14 year old daughter home alone. The daughter had also formed an underage sexual relationship condoned by the mother. The father, who was said to be unaware the girl had been left alone, now has residency.


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Income Changes After Divorce

John Bolch of Family Lore has drawn attention to a paper published by the Institute of Social and Economic Research into the longer term income changes after marital dissolution. Previous studies found that there are large falls in income in the year after a marital split for separating women and children, but not for separating men. The research concludes this trend has continued although the size of the decline has declined.

Further to this 5 years after the split incomes for separating wives do recover but not to their previous levels..... However women who do not have a job in any of the five years after a marital split, or who do not find a new partner, do much worse than this.


Friday, March 7, 2008

Scottish Parliament

Yesterday I visited the Scottish Parliament and popped into the First Ministers Question Time. In response to Margaret Curran, Alex Salmond indicated that the pilot of the Glasgow domestic abuse court is being considered for other parts of Scotland. The Glasgow court has dedicated procurators fiscal and sheriffs in place to bring domestic violence cases to court with the minimum delay and with additional support for victims. Conviction rates have increased markedly in cases brought before the court.

Mr Salmond said: "The first thing is, of course, to continue the work of that court and extend it throughout the city of Glasgow. Not every court in Scotland is suitable, as Glasgow most certainly is, for that work, but it is certainly being considered for application elsewhere."

Meanwhile, squabbles between the Scottish Government and Westminister continue, this time about ID cards. Living abroad I grew up with ID cards and they are no big deal.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bloody Relations

Another interesting English family law blog I've added to my blogroll and recommend is Bloody Relations.

All too often there are stories of resident parents denying contact but in today's post Taking It Out on the Children Jacquig highlights the flip side of the coin when parents refuse any contact unless they get exactly what they want. In one recent case I know the father failed to get residency so turned down the offer of 50:50 shared residency and told the judge he wanted no contact. Grr....


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Surplus Procedure

An American mathematical political scientist has devised a formula for dividing resources in difficult situations such as divorce.

It works by numerically taking into account the values people place on the different aspects of what's in dispute. Each party first gets at least 50 percent of what they want most. What's left over is then divided proportionally, so both parties get half of what they wanted.

Mathematically it sounds interesting, but human nature being what it is I wonder if it would really be that simple.


Monday, March 3, 2008

Absent Fathers & Child Support

This story in the Guardian on Saturday tells how a father came to abandon his son for 10 years and how the son now has an 'incendiary' relationship with his mum. I really wish that parents with care who deny contact would realise that a very intense relationship between them and the child is not a healthy attachment and will almost inevitably backfire one way or another. Children ideally need two parents.

On Sunday the Observer highlighted the concerns over the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill which received its final reading in the Lords last week. This legislation is to replace the discredited Child Support Agency and will enable parents on benefits to come to voluntary arrangements rather than using the CSA or its replacement C-MEC. Charities including Resolution, the family lawyers group, warn this could result in parents getting inadequate advice, and single parents not receiving the level of financial support they need.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Student Funding

On Thursday the Scottish Parliament approved the Graduate Endowment Abolition (Scotland) Bill which restores free education and means that all current and future students, as well as those who graduated on or after 1 April 2007 will not have to pay the charge. The graduate endowment was introduced for Scottish students and EU students entering a Scottish university from 2001-02. It was a one-off payment on successful completion of a higher education course of three years or more and replaced university fees.

The bill was passed with support of the LibDems and, according to the editorial comment in the Herald yesterday, in turn the SNP government has agreed to review the system of student support. No doubt the current practice of students being funded by government and parental support will remain. In Scotland an obligation of 'aliment' is owed by all parents to their children under s1 Family Law (Scotland) Act 1985. A child being defined as;

(a) under the age of 18 years; or

(b) over that age and under the age of 25 years
who is reasonably and appropriately undergoing
instruction at an educational establishment, or train-
ing for employment or for a trade, profession or


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