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Goodbye Old Friend

I stared at him, and for almost the first time since his rather affecting birth, I was speechless and stunned.  And for why?  Because he had just referred to my life’s work, dedicated as it is to divorce, in one throwaway sentence

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I roll back dear reader to a few moments before when I was engaged with some emails for work whilst my son was waiting for me to drive him to school.

“Come on” he implored, to which I replied “I’m dealing with some work stuff”

“Your work’s not as important as me getting to school on time.”

“’Tis too “ I countered (rather churlishly as you can tell) and then deciding the debate required more gravitas, I added “These emails are dealing with people’s lives, their divorces and everything that means, all that they possess, their children and their status.”

“Divorce is just about making a choice whereas going to school is about my education and my future, which is much more important” he sallied rather skilfully, albeit simplistically.

Well, for once I was stuck for a reply.  Quite apart from the frivolous take on the work his mother has been doing throughout the whole course of his life, it was the first time he’d expressed any preference for school since the days he was allowed on the Water Table, dressed as a policeman.

It appears that he is not the only one with a one-dimensional view of divorce.  Taking a leaf out of the School-Boy’s Guide to Law,  Parliament has come up with a new Act. Nattily entitled the Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill, and still in embryonic state, this will be the first time any Act of Parliament has dealt with the financial remedies in divorce since 1973.Dr Doolittle

All this new legal stuff in Family Law is rather un-nerving, especially as the old war-house of the  Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (known as the MCA to friends), has been around for such a long time – since 1973 as a matter of fact.  In the words of Rex Harrison as he sang to a talking walrus (Dr Doolittle, the original), I’ve grown accustomed to your face.  Oh we’ve been on some rides with the MCA.  It all started with the emphasis on financial needs, some experimentation with equality, a slight flirtation with the principle of compensation  and then back to needs again, in the context of equality with a soupcon of compensation where necessary.  The MCA however was always clear about one thing when it required Judges and lawyers to look at financial remedy in a family context. It asked us to put the needs of children first.

The new Act will more or less dictate the role of the Courts dealing with family finances.  There will be a strict emphasis on equality, a slight concession to compensation where absolutely necessary, a cursory side glance at the needs of the parties and as for the part that children play in the break-up, well that limps in at number 6 – of an 8 part Act.  We will have to see how it all works out in practice and if the new Act will remain as fit for purpose for over 40 years as its predecessor did.

It’s not quite curtains yet but when the old Act stands aside for the new Act to rise in its place, I shall remember all those who fell or rose in its wake.  All those cases, all those people, all those Courts, lawyers and Judges for whom the Act played a significant part in their lives.  Ta Ta old friend – sleep well.

“Oh God it’s school today.”

“Why –  aren’t you doing learning anything interesting?”

“Nah, it’s just stuff about the Tour de France in every lesson.”

I smiled, enigmatically –or so I hoped.  My son wasn’t watching.  He was chattering away about some new character in the pc game he and his friends play.   “The Search for Gandalf’s Beard” his father calls it.  “So, business as usual.  Better not be late and miss one second of that education upon which his future depends. “  I thought – and put my foot down.