The Split – “What is the secret to a good divorce?”

16 June 2022
Kelly Hughes, Associate Solicitor

Many of us have enjoyed the latest series of this gripping and heart-felt BBC drama, The Split. The character, Ruth Defoe, poses the question “what is the secret to a good divorce?”.

Hannah Defoe depicts the kind of lawyer, as well as client when going through her own divorce, who can achieve a good divorce. What is the secret to a good divorce?

In Hannah’s work as a Family lawyer, she manages to balance delivering expert advice in a caring and sensitive manner. She prioritises the welfare and future of her clients’ whole family. She is portrayed as a lawyer with a conscience.

In her own divorce, Hannah is sadly faced with her husband instructing the “Rottweiler with lipstick” type solicitor. Both Hannah and Nathan learn the hard way that this style does not allow them to decide for themselves on what is right for them all as a family in their separation.

The negotiations start to be treated like a strategy, with Nathan’s solicitor focussing on telling him what he should offer. In doing this, they lose sight of the impact on his children and his ability to remain amicable with Hannah.

In the end, we see that Nathan pushes back and decides for himself, choosing to talk with Hannah. This shift allows them all to focus on the new future.

Is this all just fiction and dramatisation?
In my view, No. There is an option for separating couples to have the opportunity to talk through options whilst having lawyers alongside to advise, guide and support them. This is known as Collaborative law. It is not as dramatic as the round-table meetings depicted in The Split; there are no surprise announcements or strategy involved. The meetings are all open discussions where each person’s priorities and concerns are discussed fully and all options are explored openly. A clear commitment is made by everyone involved in the process to reach agreement without applying to Court.

As a Collaborative lawyer myself, I truly believe that this option can help many separating families reach agreement amicably and with dignity and autonomy. It allows separating couples to preserve their co-parenting and familial relationships and be able to move on with their lives and focus on the future. It can also be very cost-effective.

So in answer to Ruth Defoe’s question “what is the secret to a good divorce?”, she wisely points out that:
“We forget to put as much love and care into the divorce as the wedding. It is easy to marry, what is hard is to know how to divorce. Lay down your weapons, resentment, regrets. Let the dust settle. Stop, breathe, and listen to what life has to offer next.”

This is why I became a Family lawyer and trained as a Collaborative lawyer – to help make a positive difference to people’s lives when they face uncertainty and change.

Not just disputes
It was also refreshing in The Split that they highlighted that Family lawyers have a place not only with disputes over finances and child arrangements upon separation. They can also be involved with matters relating to exciting times in people’s lives. For example, it can be important to seek legal advice on matters such as pre-nuptial agreements, adoption, surrogacy and co-habitation agreements. We can offer advise on all aspects of family law.

Family law involves emotions as well as technical legal issues; a lawyer who understands both can truly make a positive difference to families in whatever changes they are embarking on in their lives.

If you would like a free initial consultation with one of our team contact us on 01244 356 789 or email

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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