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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Tragedy highlights divorce failings

I was horrified to read in the news this week of the three young children found dead at their house “with suspicious injuries”.

Eight-year-old twins Augustino and Gianluca Riggi and their sister, Cecilia, five, were found at the Edinburgh townhouse after emergency services were called to reports of a possible gas explosion. Their mother, Theresa Riggi, 46, was taken to hospital after being found on the ground outside the flat, having apparently jumped from a second floor balcony. Their distraught father is not a suspect in the investigation, it is important to point out.

On its own, this is enough to make any of us hug our own children or partners and be grateful for what we have because life is so frail. But what made this particularly haunting for me was that the couple were going through a difficult divorce with the children at the heart of the matter. The children were being sought by court officers at the time of their deaths after their mother failed to turn up to a court hearing. Last month, police launched a missing persons enquiry after disappearing with their mother from the family home in Aberdeenshire.

While we might never know for sure, it is horrific to think that this tragic turn in events could have been triggered by the pressures of a divorce. If that is indeed the case, so much could have been done to try and avoid things getting to this stage.

The stresses and strains of divorce are well documented. There is certainly very strong anecdotal evidence to suggest that the strain of a divorce can make a person physically ill. It can also send them into a mental muddle. There is so much to think about. As well as the terror-inducing legal process that a person has to go through, there are questions like: How will the kids cope? Where will we live? Will we manage? Can I afford it? Will I be on my own for the rest of my life? Will I see the kids?

Surely this case should act as a bright shining warning light that everything possible needs to be done to make the divorce process as easy/painless as possible and for professionals to offer more than just legal guidance. Family lawyers are better placed than most to be able to offer a more holisitic approach, with emotional support and working with other professionals to offer a complete service that extends beyond knowledge of the law.

Divorce doesn’t have to end in tragedy or be the end of a family. We need to work together, push for a “no blame” divorce law to be introduced and encourage counselling and mediation whenever possible, not just to take the sting out of the process but also so we can raise the alarm if the alarm bells start ringing.

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