A step too far?
  • 8th Jul 2015

The story certainly got publicity but to what end?  For many family lawyers, myself included, I suspect we felt slightly uncomfortable and certainly concerned as to what those facing the sadness of a relationship breakdown might feel seeing this. Today’s family lawyers are trained to be consummate professionals seeking to promote amicable long term relations between separating couples and encouraging them to resolve any areas of conflict by sensible methods. 

We recommend mediation, collaborative law and solicitor negotiation long before Court action which should always always be seen as a last resort.  We would certainly be horrified at the thought of one of our clients taking a chain saw to their beloved possessions as part of some sort of ongoing feud!

The German lawyers' group ultimately confessed on their website saying, "The idea behind it was to humorously point to a problem that is not only relevant in Germany: Too few married couples take precautions for the case of a possible separation - for example with a marriage contract. The event of divorce then often ends in bitter fights under which not only cars and furniture suffer but especially the affected couples and their children." 

They did at least have the temerity to apologise adding that, "Hopefully, at least, you felt well entertained." So, did the campaign have any merit/was it entertaining? 

It certainly put a spotlight on the subject of divorce law and promoted the merits of a properly prepared pre-nuptial agreement which are good things and, whilst one may not agree with the tactics used, you could not fail to accept that the campaign publicised the subject to a huge audience. The worry though is that the message portrayed was one of negativity – get a pre-nuptial contract or get “stitched up” when you get divorced. In reality this is not the position taken by the UK Courts where fairness and equality – tempered by the meeting of reasonable needs – are the measured approach taken on separation.  As practitioners we advise clients to try to remain calm, avoid heated and protracted battles and most certainly when it comes to their household contents/cars!

Most separating couples will of course have children and need to remain if not friends at least civil for the sake of their children – after all the children did not choose for their parents to separate so should not become part of any battle zone (or heaven forbid sawn in half teddies!).

I wrote about this very point previously with “A parent’s Guide to Divorce when I said, “if you separate, yet are successful in working together, communicating (both with your children and each other) and putting your children first…..you can minimise the disruption in their lives…”.

This is the real message family lawyers want to get across to separating couples and an advertising campaign like the German stunt recently pulled does not help promote this in any way.

Thankfully, the family team here at Whitehead Monckton are all members of Resolution, whose members follow a Code of Practice promoting a non-confrontational approach to family problems and encouraging solutions that consider the needs of the whole family and in particular the best interests of the children.  Many members of the family team here are also collaboratively trained lawyers and mediators and we make it clear to those dealing with issues flowing from a relationship breakdown that, whilst we provide the legal service that most people hope they never have to use, we do our very best to steer you smoothly through that process. 

If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this article, please contact us today.

Alternatively please contact Emma Palmer, Associate in the Family Team and Collaborative Lawyer directly.