The new BBC drama “The Split” about a family of female divorce solicitors started on Tuesday this week. The new series seems to have divided viewers and the reaction has been very mixed. The family team at Mackrell Turner Garrett are sadly in agreement with those who have questioned the accuracy of the portrayal of life as a family lawyer and the legal process itself.
The drama centres around Hannah who has left her family’s law firm to join a competitor. In the first episode Hannah attends a round table meeting with her client and his ex-wife and Hannah’s sister is representing the ex-wife. Within the first few minutes of the meeting the terms “access” and “visitation” are used when discussing arrangements for the parties’ child. They should have instead been discussing who the child is to live with and spend time with or even residence and contact, which were the previous terms used before the introduction of Child Arrangements Orders in April 2014. It was also extremely disappointing to see the lawyers seemingly use how often the child spends time with his father as a negotiation and bargaining tool when discussing the father removing material about his ex-wife from his upcoming stand-up comedy tour. Children should never be used as a bargaining tool in the divorce process and it is the role of the solicitor to advise their clients to separate their feelings towards their ex or soon-to-be ex-spouse from their children.
Another scene which will have no doubt made any family solicitors watching cringe in dismay involved a new client meeting where the potential client brought his wife to the meeting and broke the news to her in front of his solicitor that he is divorcing her!
Never mind a conflict of interests, this just would not happen in the way it was depicted. Hannah then ran into the wife in the ladies bathroom and proceeded to advise her to get the best representation possible and promised to provide her with a list of family solicitors for her to make enquiries. Whilst family solicitors will often recommend in their initial letter to their client’s spouse that they instruct a Resolution accredited solicitor, we would not go as far as to have an inappropriate conversation with the opponent spouse without their solicitor present, especially in the ladies toilet!
Viewers were also no doubt shocked to see Nina sharing a kiss with her comedian client after hours, whilst solicitors up and down the country probably recoiled in horror thinking of the potential breaches of the Solicitors Regulation Authority conduct rules this scene conjured up.
“The Split” tried very hard to create high drama but in doing so it created not only inappropriate conversations and conduct issues, but legal inaccuracies that are simply unacceptable in circumstances where the writers apparently consulted with family solicitors to ensure accuracy. We feel that an opportunity has been missed here to shed light on what can be a traumatic and confusing time for those going through family law issues. Only one episode has aired so far and we remain optimistic that we may change our minds as the series progresses.