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Another misreporting of a celebrity ‘quickie divorce’ by Julian Hawkhead

As Ant (not Dec) and his wife are granted a quickie divorce (actually it’s a Decree Nisi so the marriage hasn’t yet been dissolved), I heard the collective moan of dismay across my firm and the family law twitosphere at the inaccuracies of the media reporting.

It’s a regular event as every TV celebrity, footballer or rock star enters the central Family Court to collect their divorce. Actually, they don’t even need to do that, why would you bother to attend Court when there is no need for you to do so?

What amuses me is that lawyers care so much about this misreporting but nobody else seems to be bothered at all. Presumably, the press is not dense and have picked up by now that they may have misunderstood the divorce process? After all, it isn’t that hard. There’s plenty of guidance out there if you want to try to do your own divorce. The public doesn’t seem too bothered either. After all, why let the truth get in the way of a good story? Isn’t it more exciting to imagine a celebrity couple turning up at court to collect their divorce certificate? Pass go and collect their £200?

I can’t help but think there is a disconnect between what family lawyers (or maybe it’s lawyers in generally) believe people want to know or need to know and the real public opinion.

Sure, our motives are good. Accurate information guides better decision making. We want people to understand legal processes. However, what seems the simplest of procedural points doesn’t seem to sink in. In nearly 20 years of practice, I don’t think I have ever had a client who didn’t understand the divorce procedure and the difference between a Decree Nisi and a Decree Absolute. So why do apparently reputable media outlets?

As lawyers, we get so easily frustrated but maybe we need to refocus where we expend our energy. Much has been done to push the no-fault divorce agenda and civil partnerships for heterosexual couples with success. We have had plenty of air time recently and made a lot of ground. Maybe we should now shrug our shoulders and accept we won’t change public opinion on all things family law related.

Is it time to accept that the best way to dispel the myth of a quickie divorce is to let people find out for themselves, for example when they send their divorce application to the court and they don’t hear anything for a month.  Let alone anything else they ask the court to deal with …

Julian is Stowe Family Law’s Senior Partner and is based in our Leeds office. Julian has extensive experience in all aspects of family law particularly in complex financial disputes. He has been with the firm for over 20 years and has a reputation for his strategic thinking and ability to cut through to the key issues and solve the most intractable of cases.

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  1. JamesB says:

    I also saw this and wondered why they went along. Thanks for clearing that up. Or not. I mean, I was in a family court when the admin read that judge x was to pronounce nisi (or similar words) to cases nn to nnn (or similar) , does anyone object? Then they left the room, then in two minutes later said such orders had been made.

    Perhaps if someone had objected, Ant could give evidence? The mischief in me wondered what would have happened if I had of objected, as the majority of the cases were probably like Mrs Owens and not correct.

    The reasons I didn’t – 1. I couldn’t be bothered and didn’t want to look silly (social pressure I suppose). 2. more of a consideration, some people, maybe even a lot, are better off divorced, I mean when the punches and insults start flying its probably better people split.

    Still, I agree with the family lawyers (I don’t usually) that the apportioning of blame is antiquated (and fake like most of the divorce process – except that one of the people has submitted a ‘prayer/petition’ and we need a better system. Such as the Scottish 1 year with consent, 2 years without consent and pre nups legal.

    To be honest I found the system in its entirity out of touch with the modern world and something to be avoided for the next generations. I did like the bit in documentaries about Henry viii and colepepper where they talk about being married before God by exchanging vows with each other without lawyers and paperwork as a good idea worth exploring and having seen the mess divorces make of people think sidestepping the process (not relationships) may be a good thing. I don’t think I have seen an amicable divorce. With possible exception of Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow.

  2. Spiro Ozer says:

    Julian’s article doesn’t explain why this matters. What practical difference does it make to the Daily Grunt’s readers whether Ant has received a decree nisi or decree absolute? The answer might be blindingly obvious to Julian and other professionals but he might at least take the trouble to share it with those who read his article.

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