Thursday, April 30, 2009

James Watt v Ann Bruce or Watt

This case heard in the Court of Session was mainly concerned with the wife's substantial claim to financial provision and a dispute about the valuation of Mr Watt's business interests. The judge, Lady Smith, was satisfied that the couple's marriage of 25 years had broken down irretrievably and divorce was granted.

▪ The couple were married on 22 July 1977 and separated on 20 August 2002. They have one child who is over the age of 16 years.

▪ Mrs Watt (defender) qualified as a teacher at or about the time of their marriage and was keen to return to teaching following the birth of her son, but was discouraged from this by her husband. He told her he was earning plenty of money for both of them.

▪ Mr Watt, 53, is a successful businessman fishing for mackerel and herring.

Mr Watt's case was that fair sharing in this case was unequal sharing, in his favour whilst Mrs Watt sought an equal sharing of the couple's wealth following the divorce - a payment of a capital sum of £4.25m and property transfer orders in respect of the husband's interests in two properties. Lady Smith determined the total net value of matrimonial property at the relevant date as £8,829,170 and after taking into account Mr Watt's wealth had grown from interests he owned prior to the marriage divided assets 52:48 in Mr Watt's favour.

Full judgment Source Scottish Courts 29 April 2009


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Over 1000 DV Cases in Scotland Every Week

Domestic abuse was today branded "Scotland's national shame" after almost 7,000 incidents were reported to police in six weeks.

A six-month campaign is now being launched by a specialist police anti-violence unit to tackle the problem.

There were 6,868 incidents of domestic abuse reported to police forces across the country between December 8 last year and January 18 this year.

Over the same period there were 6,035 children who were exposed to such incidents.

Full story Source The Herald 27 April 2009


Monday, April 27, 2009

Open Courts?

After a campaign by the media and others, today saw the implementation of new rules to open family courts to the media in England & Wales. Accredited journalists can attend divorce and children cases unless they have been specifically excluded. In this post John Bolch of Family Lore asks what is the purpose of the reforms and will it make a difference? John has also provided useful links to a press release from the solicitors organisation, Resolution, the new Rules, Practice Directions and the President's Guidance.

"The historic opening up of the courts was taken by Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, after sustained pressure from families affected by the courts’ decisions and the media, led by The Times." says Frances Gibb, legal editor of The Times in an article for tomorrow's edition.


Breaking the Chain

A YouGov survey commissioned and revealed today by the Scottish Conservatives shows that 84% of Scots believe family breakdown to be a significant contributor to crime. Tomorrow Annabel Goldie MSP, Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party Leader, is chairing a conference tomorrow, entitled 'Breaking the Chain', billed as an "opportunity for a wide range of people from a wide variety of organizations to come together, united in one aim: to find ways to break the chain of family breakdown and crime."

I am not convinced that yet another 'talking shop' about the negative aspects of family breakdown actually achieves very much. No country has managed to reverse the changing structures of families and we know education and support for families can minimise the effects of divorce on children. What we really need is more information about how some families readjust after family breakdown and their children go on to live successful lives, less talking and more doing.

Press release Source Scottish Conservatives 27 April 2009


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Quote of the Day

I couldn't resist this one.

"I knew that we would go as them because Keith looks just like Shrek" - A bride explains why she and the groom dressed as Shrek and Princess Fiona.

Love is indeed a strange thing.

Source BBC News Magazine


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dad, Why Did You Get a Divorce?



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Stability For Children

New laws to improve stability for young people in care and minimise upheaval as they grow up were unveiled today.

The measures will lead to better long-term planning by councils for children in care to ensure both their immediate and future needs are fully considered.

The Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 Regulations and Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 - which follow extensive consultation with interest groups across Scotland - will:

* provide children in care with more certainty and stability about their long-term future with a new family through the introduction of Permanence Orders

* ensure the network of wider family and friends is considered first for care placements, if in the child's best interests

* improve the planning and reviewing of care arrangements to help reduce the number of different homes that children are placed in and ensure appropriate family support if the young person is to return to their parents

Children's Minister Adam Ingram said:

"In an ideal world there would be no need to remove any child from their birth parents but sadly that is not the reality and I am determined to ensure young people in care get the best support possible as they grow up.

"The decision to take a child into care is always made on the best interests of the young person and the numbers are increasing, suggesting those in need are being identified and agencies are intervening to get them support and security.

"Yet it is crucial that we minimise further turmoil for these young people and we don't want to see them being moved around on a series of unsettling short-term placements.

"That's why we have listened to views and are moving to ensure stability and the child's long-term needs are treated as a priority, whether that means exploring what support their parents would need for them to return or looking at the alternatives. If it is best for the child, the network of wider family and friends should also be considered first for placements.

"We're clear that outcomes for looked after young people must get better and last year we launched measures to improve their educational achievement. Yet life chances also depend on children being happy and settled with a sense of belonging which is why these regulations are so important."

Full story Source The Scottish Government 22 April 2009


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Parrot Custody

A court in Florida recently heard a "custody" dispute regarding a parrot "nurtured and doted" upon at different times by two women. Apparently such cases are not totally unheard of.

This is not the first such dispute. In 2006 in Argentina, in litigation between Jorge Machado and Rio Vega, the court ruled that a parrot called Pepo, which each man claimed was his, should be imprisoned until it uttered the name of its owner. Five days later it squawked “Jorge” and sang the anthem of his favourite football team, San Lorenzo. The evidence of another parrot caused problems in Leeds in 2006. Chris Taylor discovered his partner Suzy was having an affair when his parrot, kept saying, in a perfect mimic of her voice, “I love you Gary”.

Full story
Source The Times 17 April 2009


Irish Variations

There is an article in April's edition of The Journal looking at the differences between England & Wales and Ireland of seeking a variation to periodic payments (spouse maintenance). Divorce in Ireland is something I know little about and it was of some interest to discover a “clean break” is precluded and the majority of ancillary relief orders may be granted at the time of divorce/judicial separation “or at any time thereafter”.

Apparently when economic times were good this lead to a number of “second bite of the cherry” cases seeking increased or additional financial provision to what had been agreed on separation or divorce. Of course during the present downturn the opposite is true and the door is open for downward variations.

Full story Source The Journal 20 April 2009


Monday, April 20, 2009

What's Happened to CETV's?

Bradshaw, Dixon and Moore's blog The Ancillary Actuary looks at what's happened since new regulations for calculating pension Cash Equivalent Transfer Values came into force on 1st October 2008.

Full post Source The Ancillary Actuary 16 April 2009


Men Move to End Violence Against Women

Some of Scotland's most prominent men have given their support to a campaign to end violence against women.

Novelist Christopher Brookmyre, First Minister Alex Salmond and Cardinal Keith O'Brien have added their signatures to a letter published in The Scotsman today, urging men to take more responsibility for reducing violence against women.

Tavish Scott, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, and Walter Smith, manager of Rangers Football Club, have also lent their names to the global campaign, organised by a charity called The White Ribbon Campaign.

The Scottish arm of the charity is today launching a new website and urging Scottish men to support the campaign.

Full story Source The Scotsman 20 April 2009


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lies, Damn Lies , and Statistics

Grr... I have a moan about The Scotsman's search facilities. When I was writing my last post I spotted an article which I left in a window and lost because my browser crashed so yesterday I spent hours trying to find it. It wasn't that important but it seemed ridiculous it couldn't be traced. So instead of an item including comment about glamourous celebrities this post is about boring statistics instead.

It was former rector of Glasgow University and Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli who was attributed with the phrase "Lies, damned lies, and statistics." and earlier in the week Registrar General Duncan MacNiven revealed the actual number of divorces for last year was 11,538 not 9,333 as previously stated. As I said in this post the provisional statistics for 2008 indicated there was a drop of 25% in the number of divorces in Scotland last year. The new figure shows there was still a fall in the divorce rate but the drop was much smaller than previously thought. A fall in the number of divorces was expected last year because the introduction of the Family Law (Scotland) 2006 reduced separation periods before divorce.

Apparently the mistake of 2,205 was discovered when examining a "relatively minor problem" at a smaller court. This reminded me of a "relatively minor problem" for me many years ago was when a nurse put a patients name in the wrong column and I notified the local registrar of a death. For two days I was wondering the 1,000 bedded hospital trying to make the hospital figures balance when it came to light the 'dead' patient was eating scrambled eggs on the ward. I would love to know how the courts managed to lose over 2,000 divorces.

Full story Source The Herald

Finally, on the subject of numbers I see according to The Scotsman here Scotland's First Minister was stumped by numbers and couldn't answer divide 24 by zero despite having a MA degree in economics and history .


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cohabitants and Mistresses

The Scottish Law Commission yesterday published its Report on the Law of Succession to the Scottish Government with plans to modernise Scotland’s wills and inheritance system. Professor Joseph Thomson, the lead commissioner on the Succession project said: "The aim is to simplify the law radically by providing rules which are easily understood and which at the same time reflect the nature of family structures in contemporary Scotland." 

The report recommends that when a person dies without making a will, the deceased's surviving spouse or civil partner will inherit the whole estate up to the value of a threshold sum after which the remainder of the estate will be shared equally with the deceased's issue. The report proceeds on the basis that the threshold sum should be £300,000 but recognises that the precise sum is a political question for the Scottish Parliament. Where there is no surviving spouse or civil partner, the deceased's issue will inherit the whole estate.

If there is a will and the deceased's surviving spouse or civil partner is disinherited, the report recommends that they will be entitled to a legal share amounting to 25% of what they would have inherited if the deceased had died intestate. If children are disinherited, the report offers two possible scenarios. First, the children would be entitled to a legal share amounting to 25% of what they would have inherited if the deceased had died intestate. Second, and more radically, dependent children should be entitled to a capital sum 
calculated by reference to their maintenance needs: but otherwise a person would be free to leave his estate as he or she chose and his wishes could not be disturbed by claims from adult children. Which scheme should be adopted is again a political question for the Scottish Parliament. 

With regard to cohabitants the report says;

"It is possible that the deceased was survived by both a cohabitant and a spouse or civil partner. In this situation both the cohabitant and the spouse or civil partner will have succession rights. Where the deceased died intestate we recommend that the amount which the spouse or civil partner would otherwise receive should be shared with the cohabitant. The amount due to the latter will depend on the 'appropriate percentage', but can never be more than what the spouse or civil partner receives. And where the deceased died testate the cohabitant's claim will be the appropriate percentage of the legal share to which the spouse or civil partner is entitled. Thus, in this situation too, the cohabitant's entitlement can never exceed that of the spouse or civil partner."

Unfortunately all does not bode well for sensible debate. Tanya Thompson of The Scotsman makes sensational headlines with her article Mistresses should get share of dead lovers' estates, says Law Commission here.

Full Report Source Scottish Law Commission 15 April 2009


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Social Trends 2009

The annual study into social trends released today by the Office of National Statistics gives an insight into the state of the nation based on factors such as health, wealth, employment, travel patterns, environmental behaviour and the changing nature of British households. Figures in this year’s social trend suggest marriage is becoming increasingly unpopular and a third of men between the age of 20 and 34 live with their parents. Below are the key points relating households and families.

• There were 25.0 million households in Great Britain in Q2 2008, a 4 per cent increase on Q2 2001 when there were 23.9 million.

• Around 10 million dependent children in the UK lived with two parents in the second quarter of 2008, the most common family arrangement. Of these, the majority (8.3 million) lived with married parents.

• In the second quarter of 2008, 1.8 million men in the UK aged 20 to 34 lived with their parents compared with 1.1 million women in the same age group.

• Marriages registered in England and Wales fell by 3.3 per cent in 2007 to 231,450, which is the lowest number of marriages since 1895 (228,204). In Scotland, marriages decreased slightly from 29,898 in 2006 to 29,866 in 2007, while in Northern Ireland marriages increased 5 per cent to 8,687.

• The majority of people who married in the UK in 2006 did so for the first time: around 71 per cent of men and 72 per cent of women.

Full report Source Office of National Statistics 15 April 2009


Friday, April 10, 2009


The past week has been very hectic and I missed a couple of days blogging. Every school Easter holiday for the past 14 years I've been involved with organizing a traditional music project for children and young people. Members of the band Breabach came along for four days this week and with the help of volunteers passed on some of their skills and inspired the 110 participants to play the music of Scotland. I first met Patsy and Donal on the left in the video some 5 or 6 years ago on Skye and it was a great pleasure finally to meet the other band members.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Women Are Retiring £6,600 Worse Off Than Men

Women retiring this year will receive an average £6,642 less a year from their pension than men, a report out today reveals.

The average woman retiring in 2009 will draw an annual pension of £13,671, while men will typically receive £20,313 a year, according to Prudential.

The average retirement age is currently 58, according to the insurer's Class of 2009 survey. But 61 per cent of those questioned did not think their pension and other savings would provide enough income for a comfortable retirement.....

..... The pensions gender gap is caused by a combination of career breaks, lower earnings and savings and a rise in the number of divorced women without a husband's pension to support them, according to Karin Brown, annuities director at Prudential.

She said: "It is still a shock to see so many women retiring at such a disadvantage to their male colleagues, despite all we know about the causes of pension discrepancies between men and women.

"When women have children, their pension contributions reduce significantly or stop altogether, and their state pensions often take a hit as well."

Full story Source The Scotsman 8/4/09


Monday, April 6, 2009

Flexible Working for Parents Extended to Millions

The right to ask employers for flexible work arrangements will be extended to parents of children aged 16 from today. The Government said the move was aimed at helping families balance their work and home lives. Previously the right only applied to those with children up to age six. Where a child is disabled, the age limit remains at 18.

Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Eqality, said: "Children don't stop needing their parents' time when they reach their sixth birthday. "We have already built a strong foundation of support for families through the right for parents with children under six to request flexible work. But, as any parent knows, older children going through the teenage years need just as much support and guidance."
Full story Source The Herald 6/4/09


Sir Neil MacCormick Dies

A law expert and prominent Scottish Nationalist has died from cancer at the age of 67.

Professor Sir Neil MacCormick’s death was announced "with enormous sadness and regret" by Edinburgh University, where for 36 years he was Regius Professor of Public Law.

He died on Sunday at his home in Edinburgh and is survived by his wife Flora, three daughters and three stepchildren.
In addition to his university post, he was an SNP MEP from 1999 to 2004. First Minister Alex Salmond said he was "deeply saddened" by Sir Neil’s death.

Full story Source The Journal 6/4/09


Sunday, April 5, 2009

What About the Children?

Recently I came across this excellent new book by well known psychotherapist, Julie Lynn Evans. "What About the Children?" features a foreword by Professor Peter Hill, Consultant Child Psychiatrist, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. Many adults tell themselves that children are resilient, while others feel they are hurting the people they love the most. Julie Lynn Evans describes children's artwork when one depressed mother appears as a sagging black balloon; a dissolute absent father is scrunched up into a clay ball and hurled around the garden.

The book explains how to interpret a child's symptoms and reactions and provides parents with practical tools to overcome their problems. Remedies are simple and common sense - rules and diversions. Don't argue in front of the children and don't denigrate the other parent. If the child lives with one parent some contact with the other parent however inadequate they may be is usually better than none at all.

There is advice for outsiders too. Broken homes can be healed from the outside. Non judgmental grandparents, neighbours and others can help. The last thing a distressed parent needs to hear is criticism even though it might be well intended.

"What About the Children?" is essential reading for parents going through separation. It is a snip at £8.44 available here from Amazon.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tax Havens Clampdown

Bad news from various media sources for those divorcing who wish to squirrel assets offshore to prevent their spouse's claim to financial relief - the G20 leaders have agreed measures to clampdown on the secrecy of international tax havens.

Apart from a published blacklist of tax havens there is a grey list of countries where international standards have been agreed but not yet fully implemented. On this list, alongside Austria, Liechtenstein, Monaco and Switzerland, is Luxembourg and according to the Luxemburger Wort the Luxemburgers are not happy.

Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker protests against the lack of transparency in which the OECD has set up the grey list. Having dealt with financial institutions in Luxembourg and Jersey over many years I agree with him, Luxembourg just isn't in the same league as those places with long standing reputations as tax havens.

The problem with Luxembourg isn't secrecy, it's red tape. If you go about things the right way information is available, but it does help if you speak Luxembourgish and understand the workings of the institutions there. Someone working on my behalf in a Jersey bank once likened it to bureaucracy  in India and nothing like working with a modern West European country.

So if your marriage is on the rocks and in the unlikely event your spouse has 'hidden' assets in Luxembourg my advice is do not panic, there is every chance they can be traced - it just takes time.

Article Source Luxemburger Wort 4/4/09
(Be warned the Google translation of the article is rather strange!)


Divorcee Earns a Clean Break

A German woman has divorced her husband because she was fed up with him cleaning all the time.

German media reported that the wife suffered 15 years of marriage putting up with her spouses obsession with household chores, tidying up and rearranging the furniture.

But she finally ran out of patience when he knocked down and rebuilt a wall at their home when it got dirty, Christian Kropp, court judge in the central town of Sondershausen, said yesterday.

Full story Source The Scotsman 3/4/09


Thursday, April 2, 2009

John Munro's Loophole Fails

Another story I posted about here was that of convicted rapist John Munro, who managed to adjourn his case for over a year by dismissing his lawyers shortly before each hearing and then argued that the court was time barred from sentencing him. On Tuesday Lord Kinclaven at the High Court in Edinburgh refused more time to engage new lawyers and imposed an indefinite prison sentence with a minimum of eight years before Munro can be considered for release. If he is released Munro remains subject to a lifelong management order.

Full story Source The Journal 2/4/09


Ann Robertson's Complaint Upheld

The result of the complaint (see my earlier post) made to Lord Justice General Lord Hamilton against temporary judge Sheriff Roger Craik QC when he detained a woman overnight in a police cell after she broke down when she was giving evidence in a rape trial was given today. Ann Roberton's complaint was upheld and it was said her treatment was "disproportionate" and her experience "traumatic." Incredibly no further action is to be taken.

Full story Source The Herald 2/4/09


Two Tales

Two tales which have absolutely nothing to do with divorce.

Jeremy Paxman has gone up in my esteem after admitting to Good Housekeeping magazine that he loves housework and vacuuming. He said: "I rather enjoy housework so I wouldn't confine it to women." Now I will never be able to watch Newsnight again without imagining Jeremy Paxman in a pinny!

Full story Source The Herald 2/4/09

The second story was about the menu for dinner for the G20 leaders at 10 Downing Street. I like good food but I think there is a tendency these days for chefs to go over the top in the quest to be different. Venison with bitter chocolate is fine but I actually prefer venison with old fashioned berry jelly - junipers red currants, cranberries whatever. I thought Scottish salmon and fudge on th menu at 10 Downing Street was definitely stretching the imagination a bit too far until I realized the "fudge" was referring to the agreement to be reached today. Doh!

Full story Source The Scotsman 2/4/09


Myerson v Myerson

I thought I had the scoop of the day when I read the news of the Myerson judgement as it came out yesterday but I didn't have any time to blog and many blawgers got there first. The case was important in England & Wales because of it's implications for big money cases in which wealth has been lost through the financial crash.

Myerson v Myerson was the case that financier Brian Myerson (see my earlier post) took to the Court of Appeal to renegotiate his divorce settlement because his wealth had been reduced by the current recession. It was ruled that the settlement couldn't be revisited as a result of "natural price fluctuation.""When a businessman takes a speculative position in compromising his wife's claims, why should the court subsequently relieve him of the consequences of his speculation by rewriting the bargain at his behest?" said Lord Justice Thorpe. Giving the ruling he said those "contemplating an attempt to reopen an existing ancillary relief order on the grounds of subsequently encountered financial eclipse would be "well advised to heed the warning that very few successful applications have been reported". The judgement is here.

Full story Source The Independent 2/4/09

Update: According to The Guardian Brian Myerson is to appeal to the House of Lords.

Full story Source The Guardian 2/4/09


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lawyers Warn of CMEC Bullying Tactics

Non- compliance with child support has become widespread in Scotland claims The Scotsman and The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (the organisation replacing the Child Support Agency) is threatening some blameless Scottish parents.

Family solicitor, John Fotheringham, described the CMEC powers draconian and said some people are so frightened by the prospect of jail they pay up even though they owe nothing.

"I have no sympathy for those who wilfully refuse to pay when they owe it. But they are not making proper checks to verify who owes what. This organisation is not competent to use the powers it has. The running of the agency is woefully inefficient."

Non resident parents were warned earlier this year that their driving licences would be confiscated for failing to keep up with child support payments.

A CSA spokesman said the agency has been determined to collect unpaid maintenance arrears and in 2008 there was a 68 per cent increase in recovery on the 2006.

Full Story Source The Scotsman 1 April 2009


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