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A friend in need (of a hitman?)

A rare bit of seriousness: a friend is in a bit of a fix and I thought I’d ask for advice – apparently my “hire a hitman!” suggestion isn’t very helpful.

John (not his real name) married young and against the advice of pretty much everyone he knew. Before long the marriage was on the rocks, and his wife was seeing other people behind his back. Eventually she kicked him out, kept the kids and left him to pay off their (considerable) joint debts. It nearly ruined him.

Fast forward seven or eight years. For the last two years, John has been trying to get a divorce. He’s ready to remarry (his fiancee, who he’s been with for three years, is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet), but obviously he can’t until the divorce is through. The problem is that every time it looks like things will finally be sorted out, his ex deliberately throws a spanner in the works.

John was due to go to court next week, and the hearing’s still scheduled. Unfortunately, his ex’s lawyer has resigned out of utter frustration, and the result will be that neither John’s ex or a legal representative will be there at the hearing. According to John’s lawyer, that doesn’t mean he’ll get any kind of judgement – because there’s a risk (from the Sheriff’s perspective) that John might have intimidated his ex and forced her not to appear, the best he can expect is for a new date to be set, probably in the new year.

John’s been here before. Here’s the pattern:

  • John’s ex hires a lawyer, explaining that John owes her thousands of pounds and demanding that she gets it in a divorce settlement.
  • The lawyer schedules a hearing and contacts John’s lawyer for the relevant financial details.
  • John’s lawyer provides the details, which show that John’s ex – to use a legal term – is entitled to fuck-all.
  • The lawyer explains this to John’s ex, who storms out and then ignores every further communication until her lawyer quits. The hearing goes ahead and because neither John’s ex or her lawyer are present, the sheriff schedules another hearing.

Ad infinitum.

I genuinely don’t understand this, because I was under the impression that in Scots law you can still force a divorce through even if one party has buggered off. John’s lawyer says that’s not the case, perhaps because there are kids (11 and 9, or thereabouts) involved, which makes things more complicated.

I do understand the need to protect vulnerable women, but in this situation John’s the victim – he’s paying lawyers for every stage of this farce, while his ex gets legal aid, doesn’t suffer financially and seems determined to stretch the sorry situation out for as long as possible. It’s entirely malicious, because John pays considerably more maintenance than the CSA would mandate and she has absolutely no interest in him beyond doing her damndest to ruin his life. And it’s working.

I know it’s a long shot, but do any of you know people who’ve been in similar situations? Is there anything, other than hiring a hitman, that John can do?

19 replies on “A friend in need (of a hitman?)”

Obviously I’m somewhat less than an expert on this, but surely if this has all gone through lawyers and stuff then it has been thoroughly documented. If you are constantly setting lawyers on someone without due cause then surely this counts as harassment and can be dealt with under those laws.

Divorce is more complicated when you have kids. You can get a divorce after 5 years seperation without joint consent – which is probably what you thought of – but not if you have kids.

I’ll point out that I know nothing of these things. Surely, there has to be some sort of habeus corpus type thing where they can demand she shows up? Even if he is only represented there – to remove any suggestion of intimidation.

If it’s getting to the hitman stage, has he looked into English law? Maybe move to Berwick for a year.

No, I really don’t know anything about tis other than that sounds like a really really shit place to be.

I wonder whether effectively throwing away Legal Aid money might count as a form of benefit fraud? She is, after all, lying to her lawyers about whether she has a case, thereby causing them to spend money on preparing a case instead of spending far less money on advising her that she doesn’t have one. And she’s doing so repeatedly, so no longer has the defence of ignorance.

Might be worth having a word with Legal Aid about their funding policies.

>>Move to Berwick

The man may have a point. A year would establish residency in England rather than Scotland so he should be able to divorce under English law where there is definately an unreasonable behaviour clause for instant divorce.

On second thoughts, don’t have a word with Legal Aid, because bureaucracies prefer stasis. Call the Benefit Fraud Hotline, when they ask which kind of benefit, say “Legal Aid,” and see what happens next. Worst-case scenario is a wasted phone call. Unless Benefit-Fraud-Hotline Fraud is a crime now.

I think it’s the legal services commission (http://www.legalservices.gov.uk/) that do legal aid. Legal Aid is only given in divorce cases if the person has inadequate means and has reasonable grounds for the case. If this woman has been proven not to have reasonable grounds on several occasions (and is proved to be lying about financial) matters then applying for legal aid again must be fraudulent. What about getting this lawyer to contact the LSC with details of this. Possibly this information might stop her getting further legal aid.

Sorry I’m slow in replying to this – I’m having related conversations by email too. The problem, I think, is that he’s basically a nice guy and doesn’t want to play dirty. Which, unfortunately, means she’s getting away with this crap.

Consensus seems to be: stop paying maintenance until she actually shows up in court.

Surely if this has been up before the sheriff before then it would’ve been recorded. She has failed to appear several times and each time has a different lawyer. Surely the court could speak to her previous lawyers to get confirmation that he’s not anything to do with her not turning up and remove any doubt on the sheriff’s part. It could be argued that since he is the one petitioning for divorce and if in previous occasions this has resulted in further delay then it is not in his interest for her not to show.

> he’s basically a nice guy and doesn’t want to play dirty.

I can sympathise with that (no, really), but I really don’t think that questioning her right to Legal Aid is playing dirty. Trying to take away a weapon that she’s not actually entitled to have is playing clean.

True, but what David & I are suggesting isn’t even using everything legitimately available to him; it’s merely preventing her from using things not legitimately available.

Thanks very much, everyone (and everyone who emailed too). I’ll pass your sage advice on.

Umm, isn’t this exactly what John is paying his lawyer for? Surely his lawyer can give him advice on how best to proceed? Can’t John call him/her and say “this has been going on too long and I want you to find a way to get it sorted”? And if they can’t, it’s time to find a lawyer who can.

Yeah, the same thought had crossed my mind too. This is his second lawyer, because the first was utterly incompetent. I suspect number two isn’t much better.

Incidentally, is incompetence a prerequisite for a legal career – in family law, at least? A relative’s experience suggests that small town lawyers couldn’t differentiate between their arse and their elbow without the aid of a diagram and all your life savings.

>is incompetence a prerequisite

Yes. You need a higher in it to be accepted into a law subject at a univertsity (A/S Level South of the Border).

A quick update: the hearing’s been and gone, she was a no-show, and the sheriff has granted an uncontested something or other. However, John’s ex can still throughly spanner the divorce right up until the final paperwork is done, which is still several weeks away.

Fingers crossed…

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