May 13, 2022

THE SPLIT: DID IT RING TRUE?

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The Split

In the first of a new series, Jayne Martins, Partner in our Family team, examines the legal plausibility of the successful BBC 1 TV Series THE SPLIT (and if you have not seen it, but plan to do so, then we suggest that you look away now).

The Quest for a Good Divorce

Like many family lawyers, and the general public, I have been glued to series 3 of The Split, the hit legal drama which is currently airing on BBC.

The final season has proved to be highly addictive, entertaining viewing and while many of the plots were somewhat ridiculous, I was impressed with how realistic some aspects of the main storyline, the breakdown of the marriage of the protagonist Hannah Stern, a family lawyer, were portrayed.

At the start of the series, Hannah who is having doubts about the separation, is shocked when her husband Nathan brings his new girlfriend to a dinner they are both attending with friends. Quite how Nathan had managed to keep this relationship a secret from Hannah is beyond me as in my experience the mere whisper of a new love interest sends the jungle drums beating and the news is shared almost immediately with the other spouse. Unsurprisingly, the new partner spells the death knell for the Stern’s marriage, especially when it is revealed that she is pregnant.

I thought the show dealt with this aspect of a relationship breakdown incredibly well. It is very common for new partners to be quickly introduced after a separation and while not a legal issue, I regularly advise clients on how best to deal with this sensitive situation. The emotions are usually raw, painful and uncomfortable for all involved and this was true for Hannah, Nathan, their teenage children and the new partner. The key is to understand that there is pain on all sides and to understand that conflict is going to be the only thing that damages children when a relationship breaks down and to respect each other as parents and individuals.

Always a proponent for the ‘good divorce’, I was interested to see whether Hannah would be able to achieve this for her own marriage and not just for her clients. It started well, with the agreement drawn up, but quickly fell apart partly because of Nathan’s highly implausible (but entertaining) choice of lawyer, the formidable, highly litigious Melanie Aickman. The show demonstrated how important it is to get good advice and avoid the ‘Melanie’s’ of this world. A good divorce is not getting every penny from the other side, but allowing both to live independently from each other in a way that is fair and protective of children. In the end, Hannah and Nathan were able to work together as a separated family unit for the children. While far from a fairy tale ending, it was a happy ending of sorts and the show did well to ensure that Sterns put their children first. This was good advice.

 

This article was originally published in Edward Fennell’s legal diary.

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