At Maguire Family Law, we are always looking for subjects to blog about, to ensure that we bring relevant content to our contacts, clients and potential clients. With World Emoji Day in the headlines today, we got our thinking caps on….
Emojis are symbols / icons that most of us will have come across at some point, usually via a text message. They are increasingly being used to enhance or even replace words within messages.
Emojis are a potentially ambiguous form of communication, and for much of our work communication is a central theme: perhaps a breakdown in communication has been the reason why a relationship has ended; or perhaps we’re helping a parent to re-establish communication with their child following separation.
Communication is also central in our approach to our work: our clients rely on us to communicate our advice to them clearly. It is part of our service pledge to ensure that we communicate with clients in the way in which they prefer (email, telephone, letter) and it is important to us that clients understand our advice.
For those reasons, emojis are not part of our day to day language. However, if they were, this is how we see and interpret some of the key family law related emojis:
What do we see? An engagement ring
What does it mean to us? Getting engaged creates a very particular type of legal connection between parties, but there is no longer any specific legal obligation to go through with the marriage once you are engaged. There is a little known (and rarely used) law called the Married Women’s Property Act 1882 which specifically applies to couples whose engagement doesn’t end in marriage. However, given the age of that piece of legislation, there will often be alternative more appropriate legal routes for a couple to consider.
What do we see? A modern version of a Christian church
What does it mean to us? For a marriage to be legally binding it has to be celebrated accordance with certain rules. Two of the key rules for marriages in England and Wales relate to where the marriage has to take place and who the marriage ceremony can be conducted by. Marriages which took place abroad may not fulfil the same requirements as would have been expected in England and Wales, but there is guidance in place in terms of the recognition of foreign marriages.
What do we see? A family home
What does it mean to us? A house is often a very stark example of the different legal treatment between a cohabiting couple and a married couple. If a cohabiting couple separated a decided to sell their home, the proceeds of sale would be divided in accordance with the ownership of the property – if one party owns the property, there is no automatic right for their cohabitee to receive any funds from it. This is very different for a married couple, where the family home is generally seen as the most central asset, and what happens to the home depends on the parties’ respective needs and the overall fairness of the financial outcome.
What do we see? A baby
What does it mean to us? Having a child creates an inherent connection between its parents; and however much the parents’ feelings towards each other may change, it is important that they continue to put the child first. Where a child is born to a married couple, both parents will automatically have parental responsibility. For an unmarried couple, parental responsibility is automatic for the mother, but the father needs to be named on the birth certificate to acquire it automatically.
What do we see? A lipstick kiss – a stereotypical indication of an affair
What does it mean to us? Adultery is one of the reasons that can be cited as evidence of the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage in order to get a divorce. Information from the Office for National Statistics shows consistently that in different-sex marriages, more women file for divorce based on adultery than men (63% of adultery petitions in 2016 came from wives). However, this is reflective of the fact that more women than men are the petitioners in a divorce generally (61% of all types of petitions were from wives in 2016).
What do we see? A client who is very angry
What does it mean to us? A client will go through a vast array of emotions during their divorce. It is often said that someone going through a divorce or separation will go through the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We ride that emotional rollercoaster alongside our clients, helping them to access relevant support. As much as it is a natural response, the one area where we see anger potentially having the biggest negative impact is in relation to children. It can be hard for parents to separate the anger they feel towards their ex-partner from their children’s needs, meaning that they can make decisions to ‘punish’ their ex, without fully thinking about the impact that this has on their children. Our role is to present clients with other perspectives on their circumstances and to help them to take decisions which are for the long term benefit of the family.
What do we see? A client who is very upset
What does it mean to us? It’s natural for our clients to be upset. For some, this comes out when the first meet with us, while they are still trying to process the breakdown of their relationship. For other, the tears do not come until further down the line. We would always advise our clients to make sure that they have got a group of friends and family they can rely on for support. This may mean having different people in different roles – a colleague from work to keep you distracted during the day, a neighbour to share a drink with and vent your emotions, and trusted school friend who can help you to decide how to move forward.
What do we see? The face of a client who is ok with the outcome of their case.
What does it mean to us? Whilst not every client will be happy their relationship has ended, we hope that our role means that once a client has worked through the issues on separation, they can feel at ease with the outcome, having understood from us what has happened legally and why. Our role is to adapt as clients’ needs change during their case, helping to take them to their new day one.