Getting divorced: a client’s tale
As a family lawyer, I feel incredibly privileged to publish this post. I have written before about representing clients who are coping with serious health issues. None of us are machines and it can be very hard to sit, calmly, across the table from someone who is fighting a life or death battle, as well as a divorce. I have to keep my professional mask firmly in place, no matter how upset for the client I may be feeling inside. Life can be as cruel as it is wonderful, but I know that my client wouldn’t thank me for showing emotion. I do what I am expected to do – my job – and I do it as professionally as I can.
Cases are concluded, files are sent into storage and clients move on with their lives. As lawyers, we know exactly what we have achieved for each client, but we don’t always know how well we have done.
A few cases have always stuck in my mind, and I have often wondered how those former clients are faring. Until this week, however, I did not know that one of them had become a regular reader of this blog. When she read Friday’s post, in which I described reviewing our files at Stowe Family Law, it jogged memories of her own case and prompted her to get in touch.
Yesterday morning I received her email. It is published below, as it was received and with the writer’s consent – and it has filled my week with joy! It is one thing for the firm to receive positive “reviews” in UK legal guides; it is quite another to receive such a fantastic tribute from a former client.
While puffing away on my Wattbike this morning, I was thinking that as much as our former client is grateful to us, we are equally grateful to her. Her email has made us prouder and happier than she could ever have imagined.
I have wanted to write about my involvement with you and your practice for a long time. I’m not sure this is the right place to do it, and I am writing as not directly to you, but more about you, and some of the things I went through. I thank God for you so often, and hopefully someone will be able to make sense of the things I went through and make it more readable! So….
I have wanted to write something about my experiences with Marilyn, Rachel and “the team” for a long time. I hope you will forgive my tardiness!
When I attended my initial meeting with Marilyn, I was bald, fat and distraught. I had just finished chemotherapy for breast cancer, and had yet to start radiotherapy and herceptin treatment.
My husband had simply picked up his laptop one evening, told me he “couldn’t take this anymore” and left.
I was absolutely devastated by this, (when I actually realised he meant he was leaving me) and of course terrified for the future. A friend gave me the firm’s telephone number and said Marilyn was brilliant! What an understatement!
At the appointment, I was hot, flustered and in tears. I had to discard several items of clothing (it was December if I remember correctly), even my wig had to come off! I must have looked appalling!
Marilyn could not have been kinder, she was understanding, down to earth and practical. I did not want a divorce, I wanted my husband back, but Marilyn talked about practical details and called in a “team”.
My husband had his own business, in which I was a partner, and I knew that if a divorce did go ahead he would play around with money, and almost certainly hide whatever he could. I think Marilyn had worked this out though before I even admitted it to myself.
The team consisted of Rachel Roberts and I know a forensic accountant was present, but I don’t remember who else. Beside being distraught, one of the many side effects of chemotherapy is something called “chemo fog”. I swear, it destroys your memory cells as well as leaving you stuttering and stammering!
Sorry, I am probably rambling a little, my chemo fog has lasted a lot longer than normal, apparently due to the added trauma of my husband leaving me!
After the initial meeting I tried my upmost to salvage my marriage. Divorce was the last thing I wanted, so I did not make any further appointments and did not contact Marilyn at all.
In February Marilyn wrote to me, not a pushy letter, a kind letter, explaining that she could not get my situation out of her mind, and generally wanting to know how I was and if my situation had been resolved.
I had been trying to pretend to myself that everything would be ok. That my husband would return and things would be mended.
Of course this wasn’t so. By now he had bought a new house for himself and got a girlfriend. I did not know about the girlfriend for quite a long time, (she was of course around when my husband left), but it was something that never even crossed my mind.
I called Marilyn and made an appointment to see her, mostly to try and protect myself financially as I was extremely worried about the situation I was in.
Marilyn told me to go home and take care of my health problems, and she would deal with everything else.
It was a fantastic thing to be told, and I will be forever grateful for those words.
Fast forward through many letters and a court visit (at which I sobbed throughout). Amazingly I could remain in my home and my husband had to pay me a sum of money and maintenance every month.
I still hate the fact that I am divorced, but Rachel virtually held my hand the whole way through, and managed to ensure that I did not have to worry financially.
I will always be grateful for the help and kindness shown to me by all the staff, including the receptionists and Charlie in accounts. It was a horrendous time in my life, and though they couldn’t take the pain away, they certainly looked after me throughout it.
My, by now, ex-husband challenged the maintenance order just last year, and even as things were being looked at, and I was prepared to settle, Marilyn called me at home, in disgust at the way his solicitor was handling things. (Marilyn checks through all the files of all ongoing cases).
I was summoned to her office, where I was told that, I was not to settle, but I was to let them take care of things. Marilyn dictated a letter to my husband’s solicitor, and quite honestly, if I had been her (the opposing solicitor), I would have been terrified!
Again, other than fill in some forms myself, everything else was taken care of.
I believe a forensic accountant went through his books, and discovered that my husband had withheld information about some land he had sold to builders, and the fact that he had since bought a new farm.
I did know the land was due to be sold as when we were together I was very much involved with the running of the farm, and attended planning meetings etc. I just didn’t know that it had all gone through.
As expected things were resolved in such a way that I was not unduly affected.
I honestly do not know what would have happened to me had not Marilyn made the first phone call. She anticipated every move he made, and helped me more than she will ever know.
Thank you Marilyn, and both Rachels.
(All that remains now, is to be invited to the races!)
I hope you can make sense out of all this, I know there is a little bit of rambling going on. But it is all very sincerely meant.
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Marilyn Stowe is the senior partner in Stowe Family Law, which has offices in Yorkshire, Cheshire and London. With more than 30 years’ experience handling divorce cases and family law proceedings she is regarded as one of the most formidable and sought after divorce lawyers in the UK. In 2012, Marilyn became one of the first solicitors to qualify as a family law arbitrator.
All persons mentioned in the scenarios are fictitious: details have been deliberately changed in order to protect identities and other confidential circumstances of my clients. All advice and information on this blog including posts written by guest authors, is given only as a general guide to the operation of the law on the date of publication. Readers must place no reliance whatsoever on the content of this blog and must always obtain their own legal advice. Marilyn Stowe, Stowe Family Law LLP and guest authors accept no liability whatsoever arising as a result of reliance upon its content.
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