Deborah Hill Cone

Deborah Hill Cone is a Herald columnist

Deborah Hill Cone: Divorce - it's bigger than the law

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Photo / Herald on Sunday
Photo / Herald on Sunday

This morning I met my lawyer about my separation. Then I met a lovely woman from the Ministry of Education about getting a hearing aid for my 2-year-old son. I think maybe I should have asked her about getting a hearing aid for the lawyer as well.

Actually, I have a lovely lawyer. He's sort of comforting, with fountain pens and a soothing Dickensian cool. He's so deceptively avuncular I succumbed to the tempting but deluded perception that by handing my financial affairs over to him he would take all the pain away. Silly sausage. Lawyers are lawyers and although they can be extremely useful, their training to look at the dark side of every transaction does not help you move towards the light.

And sometimes, although fortunately not in my case, everything gets bigger and more problematic when you hand it to a lawyer. Mr and Mrs X know that. I have just finished reading 109 pages of various judgments in the landmark divorce case known as X v X. This is the case in which Mrs X was making a precedent-setting claim under s15, the clause that says one party may be entitled to more than half of the assets if they were disadvantaged by putting their career on hold to bring up the kids.

It's all just a ditzy crystal ball-gazing exercise because all the algorithms in the world can't tell us how successful Mrs X would have been if she hadn't been a stay-at-home mum.

She was obviously bright and had earlier turned down a place to do an MBA at Berkeley. But even Mensa members can lack judgment and she wasn't so clever in the way she handled her divorce case. After seven years of legal argument she ended up with an extra $240,000 out of joint assets of $9 million and a colossal legal bill.

We don't know much else about Mrs X. I would love to know if she feels it was worth it. I would love to know if the case dominated her life and if she wished halfway through she could have bailed. I would love to know whether she would have taken this case if her husband hadn't given his new girlfriend a $3 million interest-free loan to build a new house. That must have hurt.

Most of all I wish I could be Mrs X's friend and have a wine with her and find out how she is now. Do you feel better babe? How have your kids handled this long drawn out legal battle between their parents? I bet she and I would agree that women are better off these days than when they couldn't leave their bastard husbands because they would be financially stuffed. But sometimes it seems like we have just been given another chance to decide to cast ourselves as victims.

I don't get the feeling Mrs X is the victim type. But I am not sure that taking this case would have helped her let go of anger and move into a new positive phase in her life. Lawyers know about conflict and extreme positions and applying rules and measuring out assets and applying formulas and assessing risk. What lawyers don't seem to know about is that there is really only one answer to everything. Forgiveness. Perhaps I should say that a bit louder. FORGIVENESS.

dhc@deborahhillcone.com

- NZ Herald

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