12th Feb 2020

Is family law really like 'The Split'?

It’s back!  I’ve already confessed that I binge watched Series one at the weekend (well, what else do you do when Storm Ciara is blowing…?) so I was eager for the return of the Defoe sisters and  our window into their varied and challenging personal lives, whilst also being high-profile family lawyers – to the rich and famous and, last night, (almost) to the clergy.

At the top of Series two, we can see the start of a very messy divorce approaching with the characters Richie and Fi Hansen. Abuse? Control and coercion? Gaslighting? We shall see…

For now, I want to pick up on two things that were said last night; one by Chloe, the new pupil in Nathan’s Chambers and the second by Hannah herself.

When asked why she had come into law, after giving the trite and polished answer, the pupil Chloe went on to describe that she had done it because her mum had been divorced when she was a child but unable to access justice. I also often get asked the question why I first came into law and it was for similar reasons; really wanting to make a difference in people’s lives. She put it much more profoundly than me,

“to help her escape the marriage she had never really left, because she never found a lawyer who could help her understand there was a way out from a kind of living death”.

Good family lawyers understand that life is complicated. Relationships are created over time and lives are interwoven. Sometimes that can make people feel trapped. Sometimes it’s a reason to stay and work at the relationship. But, if the relationship’s really done, there is a way out. Good family lawyers will support you. Good family lawyers know about the other support that you will need and how to access it.

That takes me to the second thing I picked up on last night. Hannah was described as a “divorce lawyer” and she corrected this and said, “Actually, I’m a family lawyer” – a nod to the wider range of work we do; pre-nups, Living Together arrangements, children…  Too easy to pigeon divorce-lawyers as marriage-breakers, even on a programme like The Split.  Good family lawyers will be members of Resolution and embrace their code, to make sure that the whole family is supported - and the relationship struggles are not made worse by having lawyers involved. Good family lawyers will explore all the options open to you including mediation and collaborative law and will support the family as a whole.

To finish my musings at the start of The Split, another quote from Hannah – this time from the first series. She said to a prospective new client,

“get the best solicitor you can afford; one who’ll put herself in your shoes, one who will give you the divorce she would want if she were ever to find herself there”

I’d go along with that. If there is a personal issue you think I can help with – call me. And please comment and join the conversations on social media if, like me, you want to chat about all things.

Sarah Smith is an Eminent Practitioner in Family Law and has been supporting separating couples for over 20 years.

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