BBC One’s ‘The Split’ vs reality

Family Law|April 26th 2018

At 9:00pm on a Tuesday evening, after eight hours in Court, what could possibly make a family lawyer sit down to watch a BCC drama about divorce and divorce lawyers? Because last night that’s exactly what I did, watching the first of six episodes of “The Split”.

“Coals to Newcastle” and “Busman’s holiday” and similar clichés come to mind. So why did I do it?

In part because it is always fascinating to see how your profession is portrayed on television and film. Doctors and policemen must get sick to death of it. Lawyers have fewer such opportunities.

The story centres around a very dominant mother, who is divorced and has also set up her own enormously successful specialist family law firm, along with her three daughters, two of whom are also family lawyers.

Last night’s episode saw the eldest of the three daughters attempting to establish herself in a new firm, having decided to part company with her mother, and finding herself up against her younger sister who has remained loyal to the family firm.

The verdict? A bit removed from reality, a few too many inaccuracies, but still compelling as the drama unfolds.

The emotion of the characters whose relationships were breaking down was only too real, however. The hurt, the anger, the betrayal, the deception, the pain and the fear.

These are the feelings which we deal with every single day of our working lives. It does not make any difference how wealthy or not the couple may be. This is raw emotion.

Relationship breakdown is enormously painful for those involved – and worse still for the children involved.

In this country, we have a frighteningly high rate of marriage breakdown. Almost one in every two marriages will end in divorce.

The rate of relationship breakdown is even higher for those who do not marry or enter into a civil partnership.

But what as a society are we doing to help families in distress? Are we helping to save those relationships?

Are we making the process of separation any easier or less painful – access to legal advice more affordable? The answer is that we are doing precious little.

Our divorce laws have not changed since 1969. That is in spite of the nearly unanimous belief amongst the legal profession, judges, barristers and solicitors, that reform is desperately overdue. The President of the Supreme Court is amongst those pressing for reform.

There is also a nearly universal belief that the law must do much more to support those who do not marry when their relationships break down.

The response from our politicians is silence, apart from one or two siren voices, notwithstanding the human cost as well as the cost to the economy each year, which is said to be as much as £46 Billion.

When will they move on from their current obsession with Brexit and focus upon what is really happening around them? When will they try to start making this society more cohesive, supportive and inclusive so the distressing scenes we saw in The Split become the exception and not the rule?

Image by Bonsoni.com via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

Author: Graham Coy

Graham is based at the firm's London Chancery Lane office. His career as a family law specialist has spanned three decades. He is an experienced advocate, mediator and arbitrator who has worked in all areas of family law.

Comments(5)

  1. Spike Robinson says:

    > But what as a society are we doing to help families in distress? Are we helping to save those relationships?

    Excellent point. The system claims to put the wishes and interests of the children first. All of the exceptional procedures and sometimes draconian powers of the Family system are predicated on this claim. In most cases the wishes of the children, and in almost every case the best interests of the children, are for their parents relationship to be restored. This is dismissed out of hand by the entire Family system, and precisely zero government resources, policy, or even thinking are allocated to it.

  2. spinner says:

    But what as a society are we doing to help families in distress? Nothing, “society” is allowing vulnerable families to be exploited by an entitled set of middle class people causing untold damage to children.
    Are we helping to save those relationships? No, this group of people’s goal is largely to earn the most about of money from the situation and the best way to do that is to exacerbate the existing tension within the relationship so as to prolong their involvement and increase their earning.

  3. rum says:

    Good to read.

    However, the main issue is that ……….Even with evidence, Judges do not listen to litigants in Person. The cases are revolved around the barrister. Every application you make is refused, you are then labelled as incompetent and vexatious. You then get a judgement after so long of not having a voice that provides the fact that there was never a fair trial. So you are meant to go back and go through all those applications again, and prove that they was wrong in giving you no merit for your evidence. It is a one way street. If it was not then perhaps some people could represent themselves. I got ‘ I wish you had representation’. whilst being refused a legal services order for cms tribunal and representation . You can not win. Then they will wonder why I will ask for everything I did in the pre action disclosure to now be done . Huff huff huff I can hear it now.

  4. JamesB says:

    A good article. I liked it when the main character harangued the male client and went off on one telling him to give 50% of everything to the wife, then he walked off to another lawyers, looked and felt reel that. Oftentimes lawyers get confused who they represent.

    • JamesB says:

      A good article, I agree with everything Graham Coy says above. Its nice to be nice and refreshing to hear common sense and thoughts similar to my own from a family lawyer. Perhaps he is a surveyor or something else mostly or something anyway, will go before I get down when am being positive and being nice, its very nice as Borat would say.

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