26th Oct 2015

What can you learn from Dr Foster?

No - not the one that went to Gloucester in a shower of rain. The one played by Suranne Jones in the recent BBC drama of the same name. Dr Foster the seemingly caring GP, wife of successful business man, lovely home, cute kid… but then she discovers her husband is having an affair. And it’s fair to say, without giving away the plot, (and you should ‘catch up’ if you missed it first time round) that life will never be the same again.

Of course what’s interesting for a divorce lawyer like myself is watching how someone handles finding out about an affair and how she then locates and approaches instructing a divorce lawyer. It’s probably limited to TV drama that her divorce lawyer also happens to be one of her patients (!) but what of the rest of it? When we were watching the programme, I had to say to my husband that my experience as a divorce lawyer is rarely as exciting as they portrayed it on the programme. Certainly, clients don’t tend to pace up and down your office; shedding all their intimate secrets and plotting revenge. That first meeting can be emotional, certainly; no one enters into a marriage with divorce in mind and so, even if it’s all gone “pear-shaped”, it still comes with a certain amount of sadness, fear, guilt, shame...And Suranne captured all of that wonderfully.

Dr Foster’s lawyer seemed to be actively encouraging her to become a private investigator; to dig deep and find the dirt! Yet again I have to disappoint you that that’s not what happens in real life. There are actually really tight restrictions on what information you can legitimately access – and in case you were wondering, if you don’t have the permission of the owner of the information or documentation, then the access is not legitimate. That may not seem fair but that’s how our law stands. I certainly can’t recommend her course of action with the family accountant – you had to watch the programme!

The other thing that always stands out to me when I watch TV drama is how inaccurate their legal stuff is. It’s not unheard of for what’s supposed to be an adoption form to actually be an old-fashioned County Court debt summons. With all those resources available to it you would think the BBC would be able to get some accurate legal research.Any other divorce lawyers / clients who’ve been through the process watching the last episode would spot her application for decree absolute was an unfamiliar process.

Does life mirror art or does art mirror life? The Dr Foster drama was well acted, made you squirm, made you think. (And made you want to be a BBC legal advisor!)

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