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Can divorce ever be amicable?

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November 25, 2014

Senior Partner Marilyn Stowe joined Martin Kelner on BBC Radio Leeds to discuss the possibility of amicable divorce.

She said that while an amicable divorce is possible, they are extremely difficult to achieve. However, there are certain steps couples can take to increase their chances of a smooth transition.

MS – Marilyn Stowe
MK – Martin Kelner

MK The question we are asking – can divorce ever be amicable? Christina Odone has written a piece in the Telegraph today saying her parents had a dreadful marriage but a great divorce. A very child centred divorce which she says sort of worked. Susannah Reid was saying on Breakfast tele the other day that although she has split up with her partner they still live in the same house and she is sort of making that work.
Well let’s have a word with Marilyn Stowe, Senior Partner at Stowe Family Law.
Marilyn good afternoon to you.

MS Hello how are you?

MK I’m fine thanks yourself?

MS Fine thank you.

Are amicable divorces realistic?

MK Good, good. So how amicable – my view is that it is pretty difficult to have even a semi amicable divorce – what’s your view on that?

MS Of course it’s difficult, the reason that you are splitting up is because there are big differences between you. I think that if you have a situation where there are no children, you’re relatively young, you’ve both got careers, you both can move on. Perhaps that’s a possibility, but in cases where somebody has fallen in love with someone else, the wife may be staying at home with the children, there are money problems, the house might have to be sold. You know the usual things that a divorce lawyer comes across. It’s very hard to be amicable, but I think that it can work. I think people can be civilised and commercial providing that they do lots of things. I absolutely agree that involving children who are old enough to understand what’s happening and reassuring them and perhaps getting their view on things, and maybe even apologising to the children, that can work. I am a great believer in counselling. I think there are so many negative aspects to divorce which need to go I think that can help. I also believe in very pragmatic commercial solutions to divorce and …

MK When you say pragmatic commercial solutions…

MS Possibly out of Court solutions. You know the Government have got this big whopping great push on mediation and Christina Odone she refers to mediation in her piece in the Telegraph. Mediation can work, but sometimes it doesn’t work because it can’t compel a response. But I’m an arbitrator and arbitration does work. Arbitration in finances does solve things and does provide a solution.

When should family lawyers get involved?

MK I was going to ask do you think people get the law or lawyers involved too early in this. I know you are a lawyer so in a way you would be arguing against yourself. I’m just reading one paragraph in Christina Odone’s piece which says “there is space too for another form of intervention earlier in the relationship couples counselling as provided by Relate, Retrouvaille (whatever that is) or One Plus One presumably you would agree with her that maybe once the lawyers are brought in it’s already gone wrong

MS Too late, yes I actually believe that marriages break down over a period of time and sociologically I think it’s called ‘uncoupling’ and slowly, slowly people tend to grow apart so that by the time they do consult solicitors it probably is too late to save the marriage. Earlier intervention sure I absolutely agree and support it because divorce is a terrible process, it’s a terrible thing to go through emotionally, and the grass is not always greener on the other side, and if you can save a marriage and it can be a healthy marriage go for it.

What could be done to help people understand?

MK Yes maybe there should be more attention put on marriage rather than divorce, you know when you get a driving licence and you have to do a written test maybe …

MS Well yes I agree and I think that in schools, in sixth form, what’s wrong with classes about marriage and life and living together and the fact that actually marriage is intended to be for life and it’s all about what happens when there are problems, somebody loses a job or somebody becomes ill or somebody does meet someone else how do you cope with all of these things?

MK Yes indeed.

MS So marriage is a tough thing but it can be got through and it can be very enjoyable. (light hearted laughing)

MK Can be got through. (light hearted laugh)

MS Especially after 32 years.

MK Well yes 31 for me so…

MS Well there you go.

MK Yes we both managed – let’s just strike a little medal for you if you’ve managed over 30 years of marriage. Marilyn thanks very much for talking to us.

MS It’s a pleasure.

MK I do appreciate it. Marilyn Stowe there Senior Partner of Stowe Family Law.

To listen to the interview in full, click here (available for the next few weeks). Mrs Stowe’s segment begins at 42:24.


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