Posted by familylaw on 25th October 2017

Continuing ruminations from a family lawyer

Norman Hartnell MD of The Family Law Company by Hartnell Chanot Exeter and Plymouth

Relationships conform to patterns, whether those relationships are between individuals or nations. So there are parallels – as pointed out in my first foray into this issue (read here) – when those relationships falter and the participants struggle to negotiate a mutually acceptable outcome whilst looking after their own interests, especially when they feel threatened.

We can see the bargaining position in the exercise of power in the denial of contact to the children (in this context, the start of discussions about a trade deal) until ‘the price’ has been paid or at least agreed. Hard ball negotiating is a recognised form of manipulation normally met by a very real threat that the other participant will walk away from the table. That risk has to be real to bring the other back to the negotiating table.

On this side of the Channel we also see the involvement of the ‘tribes’, a concept to which I am indebted to my dear friend, wise counsellor and mediator Monica Cockett. Tribes are those standing in the background trying to exert influence over the key player simply to meet their own agendas.

We have those still in the stage of denial, trying to prevent the inexorable tide, Canute-like, hoping that it will never happen and doing their best to prevent it from happening. And those who press to leave at any cost, so keen are they to achieve the freedom from a suffocating relationship.

Between them is our PM, who is doing her best to adopt an adult determination to deal with the negotiations pragmatically. She is insisting on an exploration of mutual interests and emphasising the benefits of continued cooperation. She is also adopting a respectful language often in the face of provocation. One must admire an unwavering adherence to principle as Mrs May fends off those who would distract by push or pull in different directions to meet their own fears.

We will have to pay the price of freedom, the price of regaining control over our borders and our laws. It is not a question of whether the (as yet) unknown price is worth paying, but a question of how much and for how long. This is like a maintenance order which family law recognises is appropriate to give to the financially weaker spouse until the spouse has had time to adjust.

In the context of such matrimonial proceedings one looks not only at the payer’s obligations but at the circumstances of the receiving party. One of the questions that needs to be asked is not only what one person should pay or for how long, but what reasonable efforts the weaker spouse could make to enhance their earning capacity and adapt to take responsibility for themselves.

These two parties will be divorcing. The ending of the relationship carries the sadness of its failure and a grieving for the unmet aspirations of the past and disappointment for the loss of a future that was perhaps doomed from the start because of the unspoken divergent aims for the relationship, mentioned in my previous article.

There is an end to the grieving process, an acceptance, a shift of paradigm. Ultimately the aim is to see the other not as someone who is rejecting you, but someone you have a shared history with, and with whom there can now be a shared but different future of mutual respect and cooperation.

The Family Law society accreditation in Advanced Family lawImage of The Law Society Accreditation of Children Law.
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