President’s Column for the Birmingham Post
22 August 2013 
By Martin Allsopp, President of Birmingham Law Society

Divorce by lynch mob

It is amazing how we, the public, believe that we have a right to determine the outcome of the lives of those who, knowingly or not, lead theirs on the public stage.

Take Ms Lawson and Mr Saatchi, for example. The high profile “celebrity” couple recently found their private lives splashed across the front pages of the national newspapers following an incident outside a London restaurant.

The nature of the incident in question sparked a furore among the public, who demanded retribution for what had reportedly happened. As a result of the national outpouring, the parties gave in to public pressure as opposed to privately resolving their differences for good or ill.
This example, while topical, serves to highlight an important issue, which needs to be dispelled – the so called ‘quickie divorce’.

The term ‘quickie divorce’ is a popular buzz phrase for celebrity divorces in the press, giving the perception that where matters are agreed there is some different procedure that is quicker than the ‘normal’ procedure. There is not. Even if the divorce is undefended there is no fixed timeframe for the whole procedure, which mundanely depends upon how quickly the court staff can deal with the paperwork.

In the case of Ms Lawson and Mr Saatchi, they are not divorced. They have obtained a Decree Nisi, which is possible for anyone to achieve provided that there is cooperation between the parties and the lawyers. A Divorce Petition can be issued in the High Court or many of the County Courts throughout the country. It is also worth pointing out in these times of austerity that the volume of Divorce Petitions going through the County Courts often result in delay with the ever increasing cuts to the staff available to simply process the Divorce Petition.

Not agreeing financial or children matters can also delay or prevent divorce being finalised. Inevitably, children are drawn into the breakup and it is somewhat shameful that some newspapers have sought to exploit the vulnerability of those who suffer in any breakup, celebrity or otherwise.

The sooner we lay to rest the idea of a ‘quickie divorce’, the better. There is no such thing as a no fault based divorce in this country. One party has to shoulder the blame, although there are usually two sides to a relationship.

Now that we, the public, have got the retribution we demanded, I hope that we walk away with no uneasy feelings because, after all, our own lives are perfect, aren’t they?