A family lawyer’s take on The Split

Like many of us who enjoy a gripping legal drama, I have recently enjoyed watching the second series of the BBC’s The Split. It has an extra appeal to me as a practising family lawyer and mediator myself! The main character is top family lawyer Hannah Stern, working for a London niche family law firm. Hannah acts for a high-profile television star, Fi Hansen, who is separating from her controlling and abusive husband, Richie. A battle about the arrangements for their children ensues.

Richie employs another London top family lawyer played by Anna Chancellor. It is of interest to me that the lawyers and clients meet to thrash out the arrangements for the children in an adversarial manner, which results in threats of going to court when Fi will not agree to Richie’s demands. The temperature is raised with barely veiled threats by Richie’s legal team to release information about Fi she would not want to come out into the public domain. I won’t give away any spoilers but suffice to say it is understandable why Fi would be worried!

Whilst lawyer “round table meetings” with clients is one option for trying to resolve matters relating to finances and/or children on a separation or divorce, usually a more cost effective and less adversarial option to consider is family mediation. This would involve the couple and an independent third party, the mediator, meeting together to discuss matters. Fi may not have felt comfortable without her lawyer given the high animosity between her and Richie and the abusive background.

Another constructive round table option with the lawyers present is the collaborative process which was not mentioned but could have been considered. The collaborative process generally is more holistic with more regular involvement from other professionals, such as family and financial consultants who can also be present at meetings. It also commits everyone to resolve matters constructively round the table without going to court. Given the high animosity between Fi and Richie the involvement of a family consultant would have been very helpful!

Behind the client drama, Hannah’s own marriage is faltering further to infidelity on both sides. The sadness and heartbreak at home unfolds as the drama continues but I will not give any spoilers in this review of The Split so will say no more!  Needless to say, this brings home the personal and painful nature of a separation or divorce and the upset caused to wider family members and any children.

If you would like any family law advice, or information about family mediation or the collaborative process, please do not hesitate to contact Sarah French, Associate and Family Mediator, using sarah.french@mooreblatch.com.