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Marilyn Stowe talks divorce on BBC Radio Northampton

Senior Partner Marilyn Stowe was interviewed on BBC Radio Northampton by host Bernie Keith to talk about different aspects of the divorce process.

During the course of the conversation, Mrs Stowe talked about how divorce has changes since she first qualified as a solicitor. She also discussed the best attitude to take when faced with the prospect of divorce. Sometimes divorce may not even be the right path.

The very interesting discussion can be heard in full here. Mrs Stowe’s segment begins at 01:22:05 and will be available for the next few weeks.



MJS – Marilyn Stowe

BK – Bernie Keith

BK       The Times describes her as one of the most formidable and sought after divorce lawyers in the UK with over 30 years’ experience handling divorce cases, she’s Senior Partner at Stowe Family Law, she’s Marilyn Stowe.  Good morning Marilyn.

MJS     Good morning.

BK       Has the process of divorce, has the attitude towards it changed much in those 30+ years.

MJS     Oh without a doubt, without a doubt.  When I first started, when I was a trainee and then a newly qualified solicitor it was extremely aggressive, there were lots of lawyers who were sort of the equivalent of dinosaurs and really, really used to be horrible and I remember one case where we sent a very long and you know detailed letter explaining what we wanted and we got a reply back saying Dears Sirs No

BK       Yours sincerely

MJS     So, so that’s how it used to be, it’s changed now

BK       And would they justify that attitude by saying that they were working purely in the best interests of their client and they had to get the best deal financially, emotionally everything for the person they were representing.

MJS     Absolutely and it was very what I would say, whatever you think about American litigation that’s exactly how it was slugged out then but things have changed, the courts have changed the process has changed you know the attitude of the judiciary has changed they want to see people using courts less, settling, being more conciliatory, being more sensible not arguing over every single thing so for example in a divorce now where you are alleging unreasonable behaviour when I first qualified you actually had to go to court and give evidence about the unreasonable behaviour and it was awful, awful cos it was public but now you know the sort of the bare minimum will do.

BK       You seem, having seen you on  TV and listened to you on the radio elsewhere, you seem to be aware that divorce is about far more than legal machinations.

MJS     Well of course

BK       Well, you say of course some of your colleagues are not.

MJS     They are not, I am, I am very sort of like.  I mean My view is that I haven’t created this situation but when a client comes to see me what I hope will happen is that they will leave at the end of this obviously with their life back on track, as a kind of whole person, confidence restored, the bad feelings behind them and looking positive and looking forward.  I mean I always say to a client if you think it is going to very touchy feely and I am going to be so sorry for you, forget it, cos I’m not, you know we’re going forward here, and this is the worst and you’re getting better.

BK       But will you offer advice outside of the law if for instance a former husband has a new partner living with him and the former home is where they are living and the ex discovers that the home is about to be sold, do you advise him her what to do

MJS     I would always advise a client to be pragmatic, to be commercial to forget the emotions as much as they possibly can I mean I think getting divorced is actually about accepting where you are and I think the tough part about divorce is that people just don’t accept what’s happening to them they fight that you know they are in shock, they are in denial at the start, they are angry, they can be feeling terribly guilty.  All the bad feelings and what I have to do is say look, you know it’s happened, its where we are, you may have chosen to leave or your partner may have chosen to leave, we can’t do anything about that, it’s happened, what we have to do now is on we go as best we can, save your money, don’t argue about nonsense and you know move on.

BK       Denise is a counsellor, what proportion do you think of your client’s Marilyn have tried counselling?

BK       Before considering divorce, all of them?

MJS     Actually I’m a strong I’m a strong believer in counselling actually and where, I mean, when I first see a client, typically they will be in a terrible mess emotionally and what I tend to do is refer them to counselling and say, go and see somebody, talk to someone, get it out get these feelings out and then we can start to deal with the legal side.

BK       And it has to have broken down irretrievably doesn’t it in law to become divorce.

MJS     Yes.  Some people do come and see me when the marriage has not irretrievably broken down and believe it or not I will advise them very often the grass is not always greener on the other side because it isn’t, you know anybody can walk out of a marriage, anybody can leave it, you’ve got fight sometimes to save a marriage and it’s very hard but sometimes it is worth doing.  But on other occasions it just isn’t.

BK       Are all the lawyers you come across Denise like Marilyn with this pragmatic approach?

D         I wish. I do wish but I think a lot of the lawyers that I have come across and worked with have got that sort of pragmatic approach, it’s a fact this relationship has come to an end and there are practicalities that you have to deal with, now those practicalities aren’t always easy and they may be overlaid or overwashed with emotional stuff but at the end of the day there are certain practicalities that maybe you just have to accept and come to terms with and that’s where I think working in conjunction with the legal profession the counselling and the legal profession can work hand in hand but you’ve got to able to sort of say to yourself what am I going to be doing moving forward as Marilyn said, it’s happened, we can’t change that, we can only deal with what’s going on now and change things for the future.

MJS     Can I, can I give anybody who’s listening a tip when you are thinking of sending a text, or an email, or a letter, whether it’s from you to your spouse or from your lawyer to your spouse’s lawyer, always say to yourself would I be happy for a Judge to see this and I think that will you know that will concentrate minds.  Always write as if a Judge is going to see what you’re sending.

BK       And the Judge does.  Do you have to go to Court when you are divorcing?  Do you have to go before the Court?

MJS     No you don’t, I mean  it can settle but I am a strong believer in timetables, I don’t believe in trying to waste time you know trying to sort things out amicably if it’s clear from the off that you are going to need the court to assist for example with disclosure with you know sort of making sure that somebody doesn’t play tricks, making sure that somebody isn’t spinning it out to make sure you are out of money you know, the court is there to help and  people shouldn’t be frightened of going to Court.

BK       And what is the money, you solicitors, you will lawyers you will come at varying costs, a Divorce Petition that’s how much, it’s a flat rate is it?

MJS     Yes, it’s a few hundred pounds, the whole process, it obviously depends on how much a solicitor is going to charge you can do different things you can do it yourself, you can go along to Court and issue a Petition yourself you and your partner and deal with it amicably.

BK       And a Petition does what, a Petition states we are going to do what Marilyn.

MJS     A Petitioner will issue a Petition and explain why the marriage had irretrievably broken down and there are

BK       Right

MJS     five relevant facts, one is adultery and it’s intolerable to live with the person, another is unreasonable behaviour, one is desertion for two years, another is separation for two years and you both consent and the other one is five years separation and you don’t need to consent.  The main reason for divorce at the moment is unreasonable behaviour.

BK       And have you been busier than usual this month after what we call divorce day in the first week of the year?

MJS     Well actually we have but, what, what we always find is we get lots of people who enquire because they think oh this is the time to get divorced but then they actually don’t go ahead with it.

D         And I think that’s one of the reasons that Relate sees quite a big increase in the numbers of people contacting them at this time of year because they may think as Marilyn has said, oh it’s the easiest option to get divorced and everything will be better afterwards but when they start to really think about it maybe they you know start to consider maybe if we did go and talk about this we could sort some things out and we don’t have to go down that route.

BK       Well, can see what Marilyn her practice does, it’s Marilyn Stowe with an e and she’s in Harrogate so I’ve instruct her to go straight to Bettys after this, straight to Bettys and have a nice day Marilyn, I appreciate that.

MJS     Thank you

D         Thanks Marilyn

MJS     Thank you

BK if you’d like to talk to about that or anything else Denise will be next door, not on air.

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