The world of law often makes for compelling film and TV, although to increase the viewers it often bears little resemblance to the real world. For the past few years, the BBC drama The Split centred on a group of divorce lawyers who faced each other in a series of high-profile cases. But was The Split realistic, or just heightened melodrama that damages the reputation of family lawyers?
The family law terminology used in the show is quite outdated and not reflective of the language used today. This is something the writers are probably aware of as you’d expect them to carry out detailed research, so using terms like “access” and “child custody” was to perhaps make it more accessible to the public.
However, solicitors now use “child arrangement” and “shared care arrangements” instead, which are less pointed terms and prevent any one parent being more empowered than the other.
There are a few instances in the show where negotiations take place without the consent of the client which is something that should never be allowed to take place. For example, the way Hannah (played by Nicole Walker) negotiates with her sister Fi (Donna Air) to ruin an existing agreement due to her anger would be totally inappropriate.
Solicitors are instructed by the client and cannot make decisions on their behalf without permission. Any solicitor doing so would be acting unethically and in breach of their professional duty and it could lead to an unfair and damaging agreement being finalised.
Once a solicitor has been instructed to represent a client, they are not allowed to swap sides and represent the opposing party. Of course, it adds to the tension and drama on TV, but in reality the solicitor could be reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority who would not take a positive view of the situation. It would create a conflict of interest and provide one party with a clearly unfair advantage in the case.
The Split does manage to touch on some pertinent and important themes related to family law, but ultimately it upholds the idea that divorce is the ultimate failure filled with shame and acrimony and a stain on an individual’s character. The arrogant and egotistical behaviour of the main characters portrays solicitors as people who only serve to inflame and create conflict.
This couldn’t be further from the truth, as the real aim should be to avoid disruption wherever possible and aim for a settlement that works for both parties. When children are involved, the need for calm heads becomes even more important as they are vulnerable and innocent parties, and great care must be taken to minimise any harm they might experience throughout the process.
It’s just entertainment
The show gets many things right in the world of family law, but other aspects are the total opposite of reality. The characters and scripts are designed for heightened tensions and drama, which is why it has been a trending TV show during its run. We hope this blog clears up some of the confusing parts of the series, and as The Split series comes to an end after three seasons, we need to remember that it’s just entertainment.
Photo credit: BBC (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b15b16)