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The Split - A Family Lawyer's View

View profile for Katie Wager
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So who watched the BBC One drama The Split?

Well, as a family lawyer, of course I did! Although I wasn't a big fan at the start, I was on the edge of my seat by the final episode waiting to see whether Hannah would stay with Nathan, despite his affair.

The programme was mostly about the relationship between the characters in an extended family, but in their day jobs three members of the family were family lawyers and we got to see them all in action in their offices, and in the courtroom. 

The show’s creators had obviously done their research, and the script was peppered with terms familiar to family lawyers.  However, some of the content was so inaccurate it really made me cringe! So, from a family lawyer perspective, here’s a run-down of my biggest cringe moments!

  • Bargaining Child Contact

    In the first episode, Hannah Stern was representing a wife in round table negotiations. The wife’s soon-to-be ex was a comedian, using material about the wife in his act, and they were negotiating whether he would remove some of this – nothing wrong with that.  So far, so good.

    The cringe moment came when Hannah told the husband that if he removed the material from his sketch he could start spending regular time with his son again. Aarrrggghh! This is so wrong.

    When helping parents to work out what time their child should spend with each parent, these discussions are completely separate to any other aspects of the parents’ separation. That’s because time spent with a child should be agreed according to the child’s best interests, and is certainly nothing to do with the financial settlement or grounds for divorce of the parents.

  • Public Pre-Nuptial Agreement Negotiations

    The second episode was hilarious! An engaged couple were negotiating the terms of a Pre-Nuptial Agreement, and we were led to believe that he was a premiership footballer. His entire football team seemed to be present in the boardroom during the negotiations!  This just would not happen.

    Pre-Nuptial Agreements are becoming more and more common these days, with a growing trend for courts to uphold them unless there is a good reason not to do so. Pre-Nuptial Agreement negotiations between an engaged couple are private and just between the couple and their lawyers. No one brings their colleagues into the negotiations!

  • Acting in the best interest of a client

In the final episode, Hannah was acting for a wife at a Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) Hearing.  The husband was being represented by Hannah’s mother and sister, who were also family lawyers.  At one point Hannah was torn between whether she should get the best settlement for her client, or whether she should let her mother and sister ‘win’, as it would have been damaging for their business to be seen to ‘lose’.

Double cringe.  Firstly, as lawyers we are always required to act in our own client’s best interests, and if we have any personal conflict of interest then we decline to act. Secondly, there are no ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in divorce and financial settlement.  The purpose of an FDR hearing is for everyone to work towards a settlement that meets the needs of both parties and any children.

  • Celebrating settlement

    The end of the last episode saw Hannah and her colleagues drinking champagne in the board room to celebrate Hannah having settled her dispute case. Well now, I like that approach. I think I’ll introduce that rule!

If you have any questions about a family situation, or if anything you watched on The Split relates to you, then one of our family team will be more than happy to discuss this with you. Call us on 0800 118 1500 or email FamilyTeam.