Another misreporting of a celebrity ‘quickie divorce’ by Julian Hawkhead

As Ant (not Dec) and his wife are granted a quickie divorce (actually it’s a Decree Nisi so the marriage hasn’t yet been dissolved), I heard the collective moan of dismay across my firm and the family law twitosphere at the inaccuracies of the media reporting.

It’s a regular event as every TV celebrity, footballer or rock star enters the central Family Court to collect their divorce. Actually, they don’t even need to do that, why would you bother to attend Court when there is no need for you to do so?

What amuses me is that lawyers care so much about this misreporting but nobody else seems to be bothered at all. Presumably, the press is not dense and have picked up by now that they may have misunderstood the divorce process? After all, it isn’t that hard. There’s plenty of guidance out there if you want to try to do your own divorce. The public doesn’t seem too bothered either. After all, why let the truth get in the way of a good story? Isn’t it more exciting to imagine a celebrity couple turning up at court to collect their divorce certificate? Pass go and collect their £200?

I can’t help but think there is a disconnect between what family lawyers (or maybe it’s lawyers in generally) believe people want to know or need to know and the real public opinion.

Sure, our motives are good. Accurate information guides better decision making. We want people to understand legal processes. However, what seems the simplest of procedural points doesn’t seem to sink in. In nearly 20 years of practice, I don’t think I have ever had a client who didn’t understand the divorce procedure and the difference between a Decree Nisi and a Decree Absolute. So why do apparently reputable media outlets?

As lawyers, we get so easily frustrated but maybe we need to refocus where we expend our energy. Much has been done to push the no-fault divorce agenda and civil partnerships for heterosexual couples with success. We have had plenty of air time recently and made a lot of ground. Maybe we should now shrug our shoulders and accept we won’t change public opinion on all things family law related.

Is it time to accept that the best way to dispel the myth of a quickie divorce is to let people find out for themselves, for example when they send their divorce application to the court and they don’t hear anything for a month.  Let alone anything else they ask the court to deal with …

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