Family law is no joking matter. By its very nature, more often than not it deals with distressed families at a difficult time. But every now and then, a situation comes along where you have to see the funny side. In this instance, it is a judge in Canada highlighting the idiocy off a couple who simply will not reach a settlement.
Faced with a feuding couple who had “been marinating in a mutual hatred so intense as to surely amount to a personality disorder requiring treatment”, Justice Quinn, of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, decided in the case of Bruni –v-Bruni that “the parties repeatedly have shown that they are immune to reason. Consequently, in my decision, I have tried ridicule as a last resort.”
What followed was a damning, humorous but gut-wrenchingly honest account of the parties’ behaviour, including parental-alienation behaviour described as “evil” and repeated threats to kill. At one point in the trial, Justice Quinn asked the mother: “If you could push a button and make father disappear from the face of the earth, would you push it?” Her I-just-won-a-lottery smile implied the answer that was expected.
Both parties acted in person. They allowed their emotions to dominate proceedings and were unable to take any reasonable or objective view. Solicitors often get accused of making situations worse. It’s claimed they encourage hostility but in nearly every case the opposite is true. We know that our role is to take a distanced and sometimes cold, dispassionate view and give our clients clear, honest advice in order to achieve the best result for them.
The way this particular case was dealt with does help make a serious point. The lawyer for the children in the case, a Mr Leduc – the only lawyer involved – appears to be the only person offered praise by Justice Quinn: “Mr Leduc… conducted himself in a fair-minded manner, impartial to the parties, always alert to the best interests of the children.”
In short, Mr Leduc did precisely what was expected of him and demonstrated precisely why it is essential for any couple going through a divorce to engage an experienced family lawyer to ensure not only the best settlement, but also that proceedings move as swiftly and successfully as possible for all concerned.
Ian Giddings is a solicitor at Woolley & Co and Chair of Coventry & Warwickshire Resolution, an organisation committed to encouraging families to resolve their differences constructively and without conflict.