Getting divorced: a client’s tale

getting divorcedAs 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 while getting divorced. 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 getting 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.


Hi Marilyn,

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. Getting divorced 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.

10 comments

Lucy Rigden - July 14, 2011 at 4:05pm

I read this post and felt compelled to comment.

In 6 weeks time I begin a training contract as a Trainee Solicitor in a Yorkshire based firm of solicitors.

As an avid reader of this blog, I often find myself fascinated and often incredibly moved by Mrs Stowe’s thought provoking posts.

Throughout my legal studies, I have always looked up to Mrs Stowe and her firm. Hearing the way in which Mrs Stowe’s client describes her and her colleagues was incredibly moving and reiterated the reasons why I have decided to enter the legal profession myself.

Most of all, I feel inspired moving forward into my legal career.

Marilyn Stowe - July 14, 2011 at 4:21pm

Dear Lucy
What a wonderful comment. Thank you very much. I wish you very well in your new firm and if you ever feel the need, dont hesitate to get in touch. I wish you very well in your legal career.
Hold your head high, never fear to do what you know to be right and you will never go wrong.
Best wishes
Marilyn

Tulsa Divorce Attorneys - September 11, 2011 at 6:53pm

Marilyn that’s a heart warming story – so often the clients take us for granted. Thank you for sharing 🙂

Rebekah - May 31, 2012 at 9:35am

I felt the urge to respond to this post for a number of reasons.

I am a trainee solicitor due to qualify next month and I have followed this website avidly. Marilyn’s approach to clients is, unfortunately, not the way I have been trained. Sadly, sometimes we are expected to treat clients as just a commodity in this field, but it is clear that Marilyn’s attitude is not so. Marilyn is not only a highly capable and formidable lawyer, but a compassionate one and where people are going through traumatic times, such as an illness and divorce, a little bit of compassion, a listening ear and sound advice go a long way. Just as this post has proved, Marilyn’s client remembered this long after her matter had completed.

I think the main reason I wanted to write in is because I wanted to share that I have learnt more academically, legally and conduct-wise from this website and Marilyn than I have during my entire seat in family law!! Even when I qualify I will continue to be a follower of this website because I will undoubtedly come away more knowledgeable after every read. I aspire to be a lawyer of Marilyn’s calibre and just reading this website gives me a very good reason to keep bettering myself and provide a service that people will also remember, for all the right reasons.

A quick note to Marilyn’s subject client, I hope you are much better in your health now and are making the most of life.

Marilyn Stowe - June 1, 2012 at 10:16am

Rebekah
Many thanks for your lovely comments. You have made my week and if at any time you’d like to contribute a guest post on a family law topic that interests you, please send it to me for consideration.
Best wishes
Marilyn

DT - June 1, 2012 at 4:33pm

I quite agree Rebekah.

I’ve learnt more from Marilyn than I did from practice as a trainee!

Rebekah - June 6, 2012 at 1:19pm

Dear Marilyn, many thanks for your kind comment too. I would absolutely be delighted to participate by way of a guest topic to this website in the future! Thank you so much for your kind offer!

Sara - July 11, 2012 at 3:15pm

Dear Marilyn,
I have commenced divorce and ancilliray relief against my husband, we got married in 2004 with no kids. My forth and hopefully final hearing for financial settlement is in 4 weeks. My husband has not attendedn any of the hearings and not submitted form e or any documents. He only has sent a few email to court that he is stuck in Iran and cannot get legal advise ( which was not true and I gave evidence to court that he was not in Iran). Judge ordered him to fill form E and send it from Iran which he didn’t. He only wants to adjourn court process.
When we were married we bought a couple of flats together abroad , one of them in joint name ( he has been the only one that receiving rental income). Also, we had foreign companies in Bulgaria with lands as assets, with %50 share each of us. He ytransfered the lands to a third person without my consent and has not paid me anything!
Moreover, when we had a joint account in barclays, I got him a loan on my name, which I had to pay off, as he left , while he was suppose to pay the loan back.
I am seeking order ffor transferring 3 UK properties to my name to cover my legal cost and part of the money he owes me.. However, the equity is much less that my share. Can i request a oredr for transfer of properties abroad?
Also, what extra documents apart from those I submitted with my form E , I need to provide for the final hearing? Can he appeal to the order later as it’s has been made in his absence, while he has been lying and abusing the court system for long?

Many thanks

Sara

Marilyn Stowe - July 11, 2012 at 3:48pm

Dear Sara
Thank you for your enquiry. I think you need to take detailed case specific advice and if possible secure legal representation.
One way is to contact your local CAB or Law Centre (you need a referral) and ask them if it is possible to refer you to the Bar Pro Bono Unit whose website is as follows:-
barprobono.org.uk/?cID=158&cType=html
A barrister may then be able to represent you in court free of charge.
Best wishes,
Marilyn

Joanne - August 16, 2013 at 3:56am

I myself are currently waiting to speak to someone at Stowe for advice on maintenance issues , after reading these comments I can’t wait , I’m sure after reading these comments my uncertainty will be devolved .

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