As a family lawyer, I was told by many of my friends about a series starting on BBC1 on 25th April 2018 called “the Split.” The series centres around the issue of Divorce and with a cast of Anthony Head, Nicola Walker, Stephen Tomkinson and Meera Syal, I had high hopes for this new legal drama, but I am concerned about the inaccurate way that the family law system is portrayed.
In one scene Davey (Stephen Tompkinson) and Goldie (Meera Syal) are a married couple attending Hannah (Nicola Walker) who is a solicitor. During the meeting Davey says that he has appointed Hannah as his lawyer to undertake a Divorce. Later in the episode Hannah is seen giving Goldie advice to get good representation before later on in the episode choosing to appoint Hannah as her solicitor.
In practice this simply doesn’t happen. Firstly, no solicitor would see both parties to a Divorce at a first meeting. And secondly once a client has been seen and advised the other party cannot instruct them to be their solicitor as it creates a conflict of interest. This is something that the Guide to Professional Conduct to Solicitors expressly forbids.
Rex is a stand-up comedian and jokes about his ex-wife in his routine. He is seen in a room with his solicitor and his ex-wife, discussing access to their son. During the conversation his ex-wife threatens to withhold contact unless he stops making her the butt of his jokes. This is not something that happens in practice.
In fairness the show did include a line stating that “it is always in the interest of the child to have contact with their parents.” which is an accurate statement of the Court’s approach. The court will of course restrict contact if there is any risk of harm to the child.
The difficulty I have is that a person not legally trained and going through the breakdown of a relationship may view this programme as a true representation of reality…which it isn’t.