Sunday, November 30, 2008

St Andrew's Day....

It's freezing, the central heating has given up the ghost, there's no hot water, the tumble dryer doesn't work, I can't find my car keys and the land line phone doesn't work. Grr......


Robotic Companions

Bringing us a step closer to David Levy's prediction in my earlier post about developing intimate loving relationships and marriage between humans and robots in the next 40 years a project at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory is teaching robots to mimic human movements in an attempt to make robots better companions. I think I would remain single, thanks. The robot in this Reuters video reminds me of Yul Brynner and we all know what happened to him in the film "Westworld." .


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Applying the Law

Most divorces (92% last year) in Scotland are on one of the two grounds of separation, one year with consent or two years without. In the vast majority of cases financial settlements are thrashed out without a court decision and as a consequence there are few opinions (judgments) to refer to. The recent case, Mrs Maxine Anne Day or Willson v. Andrew Willson [2008] CSOH 161, gives an insight into how the law is applied in Scotland and for anyone going through divorce is worth a read. Lord Drumond Young's opinion deals with unreasonable behaviour, the relevant date, the value of matrimonial property, inheritance and whether any economic advantage was derived by either party from contributions by the other and of any economic disadvantage suffered by either party in the interests of the other.

Thanks to Euan Dow and Casecheck for bringing the case to my attention.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ashok Kalyanjee

Yet another story of a father killing his children before attempting suicide. The Scotsman reports Ashok Kalyanjee pleaded guilty to murder yesterday in the High Court in Glasgow and sentence was deferred until 11th December .

Kalyanjee, who was divorced and saw his children regularly, drove his two sons to a secluded spot on 3rd May this year where he cut their throats before pouring petrol over them and himself. The mother had received a phone call from her ex-husband when he told he she would regret everything she'd done to him in life. Kalyanjee was found slumped in his car along with the boys' bodies by police.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Reuters covers another very sad DV story of a man killing his children and ex partner then attempting suicide. This time the motivation was jealous rage after Neil Crampton suspected his ex partner of seeing other men.

Crampton 36, from Gateshead, was found guilty of murdering his daughter Abigail, 12, son Steven, five, ex-partner Olufunke Sobo and her brother Yemi Sobo at their home in Newcastle in 2006. Newcastle Crown Court handed down a 35 year sentence yesterday, but I suspect the real punishment will be living with what he did.


'British Fritzl'

When I heard about Josef Fritzl, the Austrian whose daughter gave birth to seven of his children while kept in a dungeon for 24 years, I never dreamt a similar thing could happen in the UK. But it has, and a man who repeatedly raped his two daughters was jailed for life yesterday after receiving 25 life sentences at Sheffield Crown Court. He made them pregnant 19 times and seven of the children are still alive.

The details of the court hearing are reported in this article in The Independent. A review into how the case of the daughters failed to come to the attention of welfare workers and the customary media frenzy is already under way.


White Ribbon Day

Following a link from the Ministry of Justice I discovered yesterday was White Ribbon Day. The White Ribbon Campaign is a voluntary organization of men working to end men's violence against women. WRC global campaign started in Canada during 1991 to ensure men take more responsibility for reducing the level of violence against women. The UK branch started in 2004.

WRC says it is concerned about all violence, but in particular the high incidence of violence men's violence against women and violence committed against children by both men and women. There is also concern about the many forms of men's violence perpetrated against other men.

Apart from White Ribbon Day to raise awareness WRC distributes educational kits that can be used throughout the year and some local groups organize events around Father's Day to talk about positive roles for men. There is also campaigning with football teams.


Forced Marriage Law

Yesterday saw the introduction of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 to prevent forced marriages and protect those who have already fallen victim in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

According to the BBC the new laws mean anyone convicted of trying to force someone into marriage could be jailed for up to two years. A victim, friend or police can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order. These court injunctions will forbid families from actions such as taking people abroad for marriage, seizing passports or intimidating victims. Penalties for breaching an order include up to two years' imprisonment.

Ministers in Scotland are due to launch a consultation on whether civil legislation on forced marriage should be introduced here.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Post-nuptial Depression

Research based on studies of married couples in California has found around 10 per cent of newly-married women are seeking professional help for reassurance about what they should expect after the excitement of their big day wears off. According to The Telegraph Dr Michelle Gannon, a psychologist, found the newly-wed women struggling to deal with the inevitable rows.

Perhaps in times of personal freedoms young people need to be educated about the realities of relationships and learn how to negotiate to counter the glossy image of marriage portrayed in the media.


The Insane & Barristers

My TV broke down about 6 months ago and I didn't replace it because until recently I hadn't missed it. However, having enjoyed watching Horizon: How Mad Are You? and The Barristers on BBC iPlayer recently I think I might buy a new TV before Christmas.

In How Mad Are You? a group of ten volunteers are put through a series of challenges and three mental health experts try to spot which 5 volunteers have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. In the first episode Dan was relatively easy to spot with his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when the challenge was cleaning out a cow shed but the experts got it totally wrong when they had to choose the person least likely to suffer mental health problems. Very bravely Dan had participated in the programme in the hope of showing fellow suffers what could be achieved.

The first episode of The Barristers, which isn't shown in Scotland, features 4 would be barristers training and preparing for their exams. Just one in five students will ever get to present a case in court. In the second episode divorce barrister, Louise McCabe, brokers a financial settlement.


Monday, November 24, 2008


It never ceases to amaze me how often news is reported with small mistakes that change the meaning such as 'women instigate the majority of divorces' when it should be 'women instigate the majority of divorce proceedings' or 'the largest divorce settlement' instead of 'the largest awarded divorce settlement.'

Sometimes numerical mistakes are made such as last week when I read somewhere the number of child deaths from abuse in England was 282 over a seventeen month period. This was a lot higher than I remembered. It appears I wasn't the only one confused, so was the NSPCC who say the number is much higher than their figures, which come from the government homicide statistics.

The Observer revealed yesterday the figure of 282 in an Ofsted report is 'misleading' and made up of all children who died while receiving any kind of local authority help - including terminally ill children receiving social care and accidental deaths of nursery age children. Phew, it's a relief to know I'm not going senile after all.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

News Round Up 2

Tuesday, 18 November 2008 Baby P - In the wake of the three people being convicted of involvement in killing Baby P there has been a media and public outcry this week. This Independent article reveals the chronology from official files.

Thursday 20 Nov 2008 Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone to divorce - According to The Telegraph Eccleston's wife of 24 years has filed for divorce in what could be one of the biggest settlements in legal history.

Friday November 21 2008 Madonna and Guy Ritchie divorce - The Guardian reports the announcing of their divorce decree nisi in London.

And from The Guardian archives this week;

November 18 1890 The O'Shea-Parnell divorce case - report into the divorce of the Irish MP Captain O'Shea who cited Charles Parnell as co respondent in adultery effectively ending Parnell's political career.

November 21 1995 Blonde bombshell goes off - article about the TV interview when Diana, Princess of Wales let it be known she wouldn't be leaving her marriage quietly.


Friday, November 21, 2008

2nd Husbands Don't Count

The Herald carries a report today of a man who admitted a charge of attempted murder at the High Court in Glasgow. After his wife made the jibe if they ever got a divorce, he would not get the house as "second husbands don't count" Ronald Grant tried to strangle her. When Mrs Grant lost consciousness he dialled 999 saying he had tried to kill his wife, something he also admitted to police later. The prosecutor, Neil Beardmore, said Mr Grant is welcome back home as long as he seeks help. Judge Lord Brailsford remanded him in custody and deferred sentencing until later for reports.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

'Breakthrough Britain'

This week the media and several family blawgs have covered a review of family by Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, proposing family law reforms to strengthen families by making it more difficult to divorce.

From a personal point of view the idea that divorce is easy and people should work at their marriage somewhat irritating. I am not into 'informal relationships' and in the last 32 years only had the one relationship, our marriage. I tried very hard to save the relationship of 23 years for 7 years. It then took another 4 years of living in limbo to negotiate, reach a settlement and divorce. Anyone who believes that is too easy is out of touch.

It just isn't possible to lump all separated families together. According to Professor Michael Lamb quoted in Fatherhood Institute Research Summary: Separated Families 70 % of children from separated families do not show any worse long-term outcomes than children whose parents have not separated and the five important factors that predict children’s outcomes after their parents’ separation are;

• The quality of their relationship with their mother 

• The quality (not necessarily the quantity) of their relationship with their father

• How much and how viciously the adults continue to fight 

• The financial support available to them 

• The child’s individual temperament

'Breakthrough Britain' is a misnomer as the research actually relates to family law in England & Wales, a fact which has been overlooked by the UK media (no surprises there, then!) It links rising levels of family breakdown to the increase in cohabitation and criticises the Government for considering offering couples legal rights outside of marriage. Here in Scotland although cohabitants do not have the same rights as married couples they already have some rights and as far as I'm aware it has not affected the trend for cohabiting, marrying or divorcing. The measures do provide some protection and financial support which at least gives children life chances.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Separation Blues

On Saturday I attended a concert and ceilidh to celebrate 50 years of the Edinburgh University Folk Soc. Originally known as the Folk Song Society, one of the first British folk clubs, the society was co founded by Stuart MacGregor and Hamish Henderson. I never met Stuart MacGregor but Hamish was a friend to us all. Folklorist, songwriter, socialist, humanist, soldier and former professor of Scottish Studies Hamish is thought by some to be the most important Scots poet since Burns.

On Saturday night performers from each era appeared on stage to give a performance and chat. One story I hadn't heard before was about a pub session were the ball cock in the one and only toilet was missing and the youngest member, Bert Jansch, was sent to the next pub to 'borrow' a ball cock. The other thing that I found amazing was the number of people who had met their spouse through the society and are still happily married, particularly as someone used to warn everyone that society marriages never lasted.

Anyway the last era on stage was the first era and Separation Blues, which seems appropriate for a divorce blog, was sung in great style. I found this YouTube video of Patrick Sky singing the original on Pete Seeger's TV programme Rainbow Quest during the mid 1960s.



I've just finished listening to Moneybox tackling the issue of Divorce & Separation. John Fotheringham, solicitor and member of the Scottish Family Law Association and the Law Society of Scotland was on the panel of experts answering listeners' questions about mediation, the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, splitting assets, benefits and pensions.

The BBC Radio 4's progamme can be heard here.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Virtual Affair

Thanks to Mike, a retired solicitor and regular poster on the Wikivorce forum, for the tip off about this story in The Telegraph regarding a woman who has filed for divorce, citing unreasonable behaviour because her husband has formed a ' virtual ' attachment to a non-existent ' wife ' on a computer game.

Amy Pollard claimed her husband committed adultery with the animated woman in the virtual world of Second Life. This is a role playing game created by the 'residents' themselves who live in a parallel, virtual universe - including having jobs, relationships and children.

I feel a Victor Meldrew moment coming on.


Thursday, November 13, 2008


A former Church of Scotland minister and policeman in Scotland, Roderick Gordon Sangster, was found guilty in his absence of bigamy and forgery at Warwick County Court today.

Sangster married his first wife Frances Richards (now Tait) in 1971 and they had four children. After she discovered he had forged signatures for loans she knew nothing about leaving her heavily in debt they separated.

In 1994 Sangster started a relationship with Jill Jackson, whilst still married to Frances. He divorced Frances and then married Jill. Mr Sangster left Jill in 2002, when she found out she had debts of £32,000.

Within two years he had met and married Janet Wallace, formerly Pollard, whilst still married to Jill Jackson. Sangster told Janet he was divorced and they married in 2004. When he later left for another woman, Patricia Harrison, Janet found she had debts of £55k.

A warrant for Mr Sangsters arrest was issued and Judge Marten Coates adjourned sentencing to give police time to locate him. Prosecutor David Jones said "A pattern emerges that Mr Sangster used to choose ladies who were fairly financially secure, but vulnerable."

So financially secure but vulnerable people, you have been warned!

References: The Leamington Observer and The Telegraph


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Question Time

Today I thought I might try to provide answers to some of the issues which bring people to this blog. Please remember there is no substitute for proper professional advice and I am not a lawyer so this is for general information only.

divorce nisi scotland & divorce decree absolute scotland
In Scotland there is no nisi and absolute, just one divorce decree.

divorce what is proof hearing scotland
A proof is a full court hearing where evidence is given by witnesses during proceedings in open court.

free simplified divorce form in scotland
The instructions and application forms SPA for divorce after one year's separation with consent and SPB for divorce after two years consent are available to download free from the Scottish Courts website here.

scots law - inherited assets in divorce
Inherited assets in Scotland are not considered matrimonial property.

demande de divorce à singapour: conciliation
Je suis désolé, je ne sais rien du divorce dans Singapour mais je pourrais recommander le conciliation.

tri martolod rap
This I can answer with some authority. Tri Martolod (Three Sailors) is a traditional Breton tune and Manau recorded the rap version La Tribu de Dana here.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Soldier's Declaration

Some of the staff at Craiglockhart Hospital

A while ago I worked in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, a psychiatric hospital. My memories of the first day were being told the difference between patients and staff were the patients wore slippers, and being introduced to a patient who suffered shell shock and was still institutionalized some 60 years later.

During WWI the man had been sent to Craiglockhart Hospital (less than two miles from my home) which was used for the treatment of shellshocked officers. Thankfully the chief medical officers at Craiglockhart, Drs River and Brock, treated shellshock as an ordinary reaction to the trauma of war rather than cowardice or insanity.

After the English poet Siegfried Sassoon wrote his Soldier's Declaration declining to return to duty he was declared unfit for duty and sent to Craiglockhart. At Craiglockhart Sassoon met Wilfred Owen and it was thanks to Sassoon that Owen persevered in his ambition to write better poetry. Owen was killed after returning to duty and Sassoon helped bring Owen's poetry to a wider audience.

On 11th November let us not only remember of those who were killed and injured in war but, like the patients of Craiglockhart Hospital, those who suffered the mental anguish of living with the effects of war.


Monday, November 10, 2008


According to The Times Mothers Apart from Their Children (MATCH) estimates there are more than 150,000 mothers in he UK living apart from their children. MATCH, a self help organisation with groups all over the UK, celebrates it's anniversary in 2009 after thirty years of offering non-judgemental emotional support to mothers all over the world who are apart from their child. There are many reasons MATCH suggests mothers and children live apart - ill-Health, international child abduction, family conflict, abusive relationships and false accusations.

The object for the organisation's existence is;

“the preservation and protection of good mental health of mothers living apart from their children by the provision of information, advice and support.”


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Upsetting Feminists

On Thursday and Friday the newspapers reported an article by Dr Catherine Hakim senior research fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science, calling for future social and family policy to be gender-neutral rather than geared towards helping women. Given the freedom to choose, she says, women and men divide into three lifestyle-preference groups – home-centred, work-centred and adaptives (who combine work and family) and nowhere in western Europe are there more than 25% of women who are career driven.

Dr Hakim predicts that "men will continue to dominate in the workforce and public life while women will continue to dominate in family life, even in the absence of sex discrimination, because there are some residual differences in tastes, values and lifestyle choices." She suggests women now have a real choice whereas men's working practices are limited so, if anything, future legislation should address this imbalance.

LSE press release "More sex equality law would be futile and perverse says new essay by LSE expert"


Friday, November 7, 2008

Legal Aid Threshold to Increase

At the joint Scottish Legal Aid Board/Law Society of Scotland annual conference on legal aid Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announced today the upper disposable income threshold for civil legal aid is to increase from £10,306 to £25,000. According to The Journal Online this should make more than a million additional Scots potentially eligible for financial help towards court costs for civil actions.

This sounds all well and good, but my understanding is many solicitors doing legal aid work have given up because of the poor rates of pay so unless I'm missing something I don't see how these new measures will address the shortage of lawyers prepared to take on legal aided cases.



About this time last year Mike Smith of Durham Legal Services was enthusiastically telling me about a new development, Footprint. It was designed in anticipation of the child support reforms to help parents make their own child maintenance arrangements without involving the the Child Support Agency. Footprint records details of contact arrangements and keeps a diary creating a record which maybe accessed by lawyers and used to resolve disputes. There is "an absolutely unique interface where messages about the children can be exchanged in a neutral way, cutting down on those angry email exchanges and telephone calls." There is charge of £75 that includes a written Private Maintenance Agreement plus 12 months' use of the Footprint online system.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

EU Campaign Against DV

José Mendes Bota, the Council of Europe's reporter, recently said at a European Parliament hearing an important factor for him is the involvement of more men into the Council's "Stop domestic violence against women" initiative. The campaign is to raise awareness of the seriousness and prevention of DV ahead of the launch of the EU's action plan for domestic violence, to be made available by the end of the year. Here is the press release from the European Parliament.

Issues such as DV are a concern for us all and shouldn't be seen as women's issues or men's issues. After all it doesn't matter whether you are a mother or father if one of your children, whatever their gender, is the victim of DV.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Blog Roundup 3

A quick roundup of some blogs in the last week or so.

John Bolch of Family Lore post, Contact provisions implemented at last, pointing out the new measures under the Children and Adoption Act 2006 to enforce contact orders are to come into force in England & Wales on the 8 December.

Lucy Reed of Pink Tape has written an excellent post called The Unverifiable Truth in relation to the The Times Family Justice Campaign for greater openness. This raises the point that people's accounts of decisions involving them, which they consider wrong or unjust, will hardly be objective. They will naturally feel aggrieved and the truth is unverifiable when the only source of information is the individuals concerned.

Continuing the epistemology theme in The Fat Bigot Opines' post entitled Wigs & Gowns "I Think" the Fat Bigot fears the relaxing of the formality of dress will result in the relaxation of court proceedings. Over time this could lead to "I think" advocacy, as witnessed in American courts, rather than concentrating on the evidence.

Jaqui Gillatt of Bloody Relations posted a video of the great Leonard Cohen's Democracy is Coming. As of today that should be Democracy Is Now Here.

Hector MacQueen of Edinburgh University's Scots Law News reports the latest episode in the Cockerel Wars: the return of Charlie. This is an ongoing saga about a night time curfew handed down to a cockerel, Charlie. In August this year Charlie's owner admitted a breach of an order to regulate Charlie's crowing early in the morning and the court was told the cockerel wasn't making so much noise as in his younger years. Following this up the local paper has written about the bird's impending demise and Charlie is to be buried with honour.

For those separated or divorced (or anyone else) having difficulty sleeping at night there is a link to the online Silence Your Rooster Insomnia Game.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Children's Participation in Court

With the exception of the very young, all children in Scotland receive notification of any contact or residence proceedings affecting them and are invited to respond in writing. If the child wishes to do so they may express a view and indicate their wish to attend a Child Welfare Hearing personally. This doesn't happen in England & Wales and it is interesting to hear this podcast , particularly what the young people had to say, in a recent debate "Enhancing the Participation of Children and Young People in Family Court Proceedings".

Thanks to Family Law Week for the lead.


Plain English

Plain English in the courtroom was an issue I raised in an earlier post Now the Business Experts and Law forum, a panel set up by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill sees "the potential for Scotland's dispute resolution system to be developed and marketed as a just, integrated and efficient neutral system that runs like clockwork - the Switzerland of dispute resolution". However, according this Herald article one of the measures the panel recommended to make the legal system attractive to business is court procedures should be expressed in more plain English. Plain English in Scots law would be attractive to everyone else who uses the system too.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Pensions Guide

Pensions in divorce is something I've been meaning to blog about for some time, but if I'm honest I keep putting it off because it isn't my favourite topic. As far as I'm concerned a 'critical yield test' calculates the performance of chips in a finished wafer (referring to electronics, not my culinary skills!) rather than calculating the investment performance of pensions. Anyway a while ago Peter Moore of Bradshaw Dixon Moore sent me the interesting Pensions in Divorce Guide which explains how pensions are dealt with at each stage of the divorce process. There is also a Pensions in Divorce Guide for Clients available to download at The Ancillary Actuary which does a far better job of explaining pensions than I ever could.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Uncle Mark

I do get annoyed the way single mums cop the blame. "The only single mum in the village" is a story in The Guardian from a mother who recently moved to the country and became embroiled in a child abuse investigation when her son exaggerated a story about something that had happened a a family party. Her brother, Uncle Mark, had stopped the cousins chasing each other around trying to grab underwear in their tracks by showing half of one buttock and saying the game was over. This was particularly serious because Mark is a teacher.

After the police investigated criminal charges were dropped, but social services needed to carry out a report. At the end of the interview Ruth suddenly twigged it wasn't her brother they were interested in but the 'real' perpetrator. "It's the word 'uncle' in the context of a single mother, isn't it?" Ruth asks the social worker who nods and leaves.


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