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Stitched Up
Divorce injustice – a victim’s story
A true story by

Simon Opfer

Published in 2016 by FeedARead.com Publishing
Copyright © The author as named on the book cover.
The author or authors assert their moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act,
1988, to be identified as the author or authors of this work.
All Rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the
copyright holder, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in
which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the
subsequent purchaser.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

Cover picture: John Heartfield (1891-1968), The Executioner and Justice, 1933. Photomontage.
© The Heartfield Community of Heirs / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn and DACS, London 2016.

This illustration first appeared on the cover of AIZ magazine (Arbeiter–Illustrierte–Zeitung, the
Worker ’s Illustrated News) on November 30, 1933. It was a satirical comment on the show-trial
that followed the burning of the Reichstag, the German Imperial Parliament building, on 27
February 1933. A young Dutch communist was tried and sentenced to death for the crime, but
many believed the fire was in fact orchestrated by the Nazi Party; it became symbolic of the
end of democratic government after Hitler ’s rise to power. Hermann Goering was instrumental
in bringing Hitler to power, and founded the feared Gestapo, the Nazi secret police. John
Heartfield, a German who anglicised his name as a protest against German nationalism, fled
the country to Czechoslovakia in 1933, then to England in 1938. The caption of his
photomontage says: ‘The Executioner and Justice. Goering in the Reichstag fire trial: For me,
the law is something bloody.’

DEDICATED
To love lost

Instead of getting married again, I'm just going to find a woman I don't like and give her a
house.
Rod Stewart.

The one great principle of the English law is, to make business for itself. There is no
other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow
turnings. Viewed by this light it becomes a coherent scheme, and not the monstrous
make the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand
principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to
grumble.
Charles Dickens, Bleak House, Chapter XXXIX.

CONTENTS
PART I
CHA PTER
CHA PTER
CHA PTER
CHA PTER
CHA PTER

INTRODUCTION
1
2
3
4
5

PART II
CHA PTER
PTER 7
PTER 8
CHA PTER
CHA PTER
CHA PTER
CHA PTER
CHA PTER
CHA PTER
PTER 15
CHA PTER

MEET SIMON A ND LINDA
OUR SHA RED DREA M
SEPA RATION
THE ‘XXX PROPERTY MA NA GEMENT’ DEBA CLE
AN A MICA BLE SETTLEMENT?
THE DIVORCE

6
NEGOTIATION CHA
THE FIRST HEA RING CHA
THE SECOND HEA RING
9
MY FIRST FORMA L COMPLA INT
10
THE THIRD HEA RING
11
MY SECOND FORMA L COMPLA INT
12
A FA LSE CLA IM OF REPRESENTATION
13
I HAV E TO COMPLA IN A THIRD TIME? REALLY?
14
THE VA LUATION OF THE MINE HOUSE CHA
HOW CA N THEY POSSIBLY DECIDE?
16
FOURTH HEA RING – THE BOMBSHELL

PART III

THE APPEAL

CHA PTER 17
PREPA RING THE A PPEA L
CHA PTER 18
FA LSE A LLEGATIONS CHA
PTER 19
AFTER THE BOMB DROPPED CHA
PTER 20
THE FIFTH HEA RING CHA PTER
21
THE THEFT OF £28,500
CHA PTER 22
SELLING THE COMPA NY PROPERTY
CHA PTER 23
SIXTH HEA RING
CHA PTER 24
SEVENTH HEA RING, ON THE A PPEA L
CHA PTER 25
LICKING MY WOUNDS
CHA PTER 26
EIG HTH HEA RING A ND STILL NO JUSTICE
CHA PTER 27
NINTH HEA RING
CHA PTER 28
TIME TO GET HELP. PSY CHIATRIC TREATMENT
CHA PTER 29
THE CA SE GOES ON A ND ON
CHA PTER 30
TRY ING TO MA KE SENSE OF IT
CHA PTER 31
THE EUROPEA N COURT OF HUMA N RIGHTS
CHA PTER 32
THE TENTH HEA RING
CHA PTER 33
FORMA L COMPLA INT A GA INST MY SOLICITOR
CHA PTER 34
EPILOGUE - PICKING UP THE PIECES
PART IV

WHAT WENT WRONG?

CHA PTER 35
W HAT I WISH I HA D BEEN TOLD CHA
PTER 36
W HAT THE COURTS COULD EA SILY DO CHA
PTER 37
W HAT THE GOOD GUY S A RE SAY ING CHA
PTER 38
‘MA NIFESTO’ FOR A BETTER SY STEM CHA
PTER 39
MY CONCLUSION

Part I INTRODUCTION
How much should a divorce cost? I don’t mean for the super-wealthy, I mean for ordinary
people with modest assets, like you and me.
£1,000? £5,000? £25,000?
How long should it take? Six months? A year?
And, how many court hearings should there be? One? Two? More?
What would normally be a fair division of the assets? 50:50? Something else?
Before I went into my divorce, I assumed the answers would be something like £2,000,
6 months, one hearing, a 50:50 division of assets.
Why would it be otherwise?
If you have never had any contact with the English legal system, your answers might have been
similar to mine.
I had never been divorced before in England. My first divorce was in the Netherlands back in
1984 and, as far as I remember, the legal process was pretty straightforward.
The divorce described in this book cost me over £50,000 in legal fees, even though I could
not afford a lawyer! It has taken four years and ten hearings so far – and is still not settled.
The court awarded my former wife 139% of the marital assets – yes, she got more than we
actually had, so minus 39% to me! Not only that, they charged me for her legal fees! Not only
that; they then forced me into a partnership with her!
I doubt you would have expected that; I know I didn’t.
And this despite my ex and I originally agreeing to keep it simple, and my efforts not to spend
anything at all.
Is it just me, or is this insane?
I appealed against the unfair division of assets, but failed. I tried to get the partnership
dissolved and the properties sold, but our ‘justice’ system prevented that, too. The agony is
likely to be prolonged until at least 2018, and even then a resolution is far from certain! Hard to
believe? I think so.

That’s why I wrote this book.
Well, I wrote it for three reasons: for me, for you, and for a better future.
First, for me, because I need to be heard in order to recover my sanity. I have been
consistently ignored by the ‘justice’ system and have never had the chance to put my case.
Writing this book is the only way I can do that. I spent the first 60 years of life under the
misapprehension that we lived in a country that had fair laws, and a wise justice system. I
trusted the justice system. It was a massive shock to find out that we – England in the 21st
century – have no such thing. I suffered institutional prejudice just because I could not afford a
lawyer. That makes me angry. Not only am I the victim of a miscarriage of justice, but I was
made to feel like a criminal. I need to get it off my chest and sort it out in my own mind. I hope

that telling you the story will enable me to consign it to the past and move on.
Secondly, for you. Are you in a relationship and thinking about marriage? You need to read this
book, especially if you have assets. You really need to ask yourself first what the marriage
‘contract’ actually is. If you thought it binds you into an equal relationship with your partner, you
are in for a shock. It’s more like a blank cheque. There is no guarantee at all that a judge in
divorce proceedings will decide you share your assets fairly! I found that a huge shock. There’s
nothing out there to tell you that might happen. We are normally advised to ‘read the small print’
before signing a contact, but with the marriage contract there is no small print. If I had known
the terms of the marriage contract, I would not have got married at all.
Are you happily married? Good for you. I know it can be hard to even contemplate divorce, but
think for a minute about how you manage your joint finances and those big purchases, like a
house. You should read this book. It’s like writing a will; you don’t expect to die, but it is still
wise to plan ahead, just in case.
What if you’re having to face divorce right now? You have my deepest sympathy. This book
doesn’t offer legal advice, but it will help by letting you see what you could be dealing with.
How about if you’ve just gone through a divorce? Again, my sympathy. But you should read this
book because you’ll see you’re not the only victim, and that you’re not the crazy one, it’s the
English ‘justice’ system that’s crazy.
And speaking of justice, if that interests you, you’ll discover our system is seriously flawed and
really needs radical reform. You might want to help bring about the changes to give us a
rational and fair legal system.
There is nothing in your local bookstore or library that exposes these problems. As we will see,
there’s no clear law or ‘official handbook’ that sets out what you are entitled to when a marriage
breaks down, or how you should behave when you’re getting a divorce. Especially if it all turns
sour. You might not even know you need this book. I didn’t know I’d need to know the facts that
you’re about to discover until it was too late. They don’t tell you until it’s too late. You don’t
know what you don’t know. After reading this, you will know what you need to know; and I
hope that means you’ll suffer less than I did. I wish someone else had written this book before I
went through the agony of my divorce so I could’ve just picked it up and learned its valuable
lessons.

My third reason is for a better future. That may sound lofty, but what I mean is that the ‘justice’
system we have in England is seriously broken. It is unfair, unjust, expensive, is not transparent,
it is not scrutinised, and is not fit for purpose. It is incompatible with our basic human rights. It
has lost sight of its original purpose. Now, it’s just a cash cow for lawyers. I will show not that I
made a mistake, but that there is nothing I could have done to get a fair settlement. That
means there is nothing you can do either if you find yourself in a divorce court. We need to
replace the injustice system with a justice system. What you can do is lobby your MP, and vote
for the politicians who promise a radical change in the law.
The last part of this book shows that this is not just a dream, but a perfectly practical aspiration
that is already met in most civilised countries.
I am just an ordinary man, but my story is extraordinary. You may find some parts hard to
believe.
I
did

and
I
was
there!

For legal reasons, it has been necessary to alter the names of the people appearing in this
story, including me. Apart from that, I promise you that I am now, as always, just telling the
truth.
So now judge – no, not that word…
Just – no, not that word either!
Decide for yourself.
Now, I get to tell my story…

Chapter 1 Meet Simon and Linda
I’m Simon, born 1952 in London, the eldest of six children. We moved to Hertfordshire when I
was five. My parents were both physical education teachers, Mum later teaching maths. My
childhood was happy and carefree, my memories fond. I originally wanted to become an
electronic engineer, my teenage hobby. After an apprenticeship with Marconi, an electronics
giant in Essex, I decided on a more general education and switched to physics at Southampton
University. That didn’t work out, so after a year, I returned to Marconi where they needed
computer programmers; they trained me – in the days when computers were new. After a brief
period in Crawley, I moved to a Swiss company in Croydon. They moved me to Berne,
Switzerland where I worked for 2½ great years. I got married to Mary from England. Our son,
Michael was born in Berne.
In 1981 we returned to Kent, England, where I became a software engineer with a software
company in London, writing programs, but found things financially tough in England, so I
searched for work in Germany. I soon found myself relocating the family to my new job in
Eindhoven, the Netherlands. But Mary was homesick and we separated in 1984. I stayed in
Holland, ambitious to rise up the ranks. I moved to Amsterdam. Mary and I eventually divorced.
That was not a pleasant process, but at least the Dutch legal process was fairly
straightforward.
In the Netherlands, you each need an advocate, and he or she is the only one allowed to speak
to the judge on your behalf. The divorce was simple, quick, cost under £2,000, and only took an
hour or so. The contrast to my second divorce couldn’t have been more marked.
In the meantime, I rose to a senior position in a major Dutch IT company. I had a well-paid job
as a senior manager, with valuable share options. These shares are important in the second
divorce.
I wanted to visit England regularly to see Michael and travelling from the Netherlands was
difficult, so I eventually left that job and in 1988 returned to England. I exercised my share
options, buying full shares with the pension rights I had accumulated. Then I bought a flat in
Bournemouth and began freelancing, but after 1½ years, I returned to Amsterdam, where I
bought another flat. These properties will also be significant in the second divorce, though I
haven’t even met my second wife yet.

I worked as a freelancer in the Netherlands until 1994. During this period, I contributed to a
private pension fund. This will also become important in the divorce.
I paid off a substantial amount of the mortgages on the two properties I owned. At 40, I had
every reason to suppose I had a secure future and a comfortable retirement independent of
state benefits.
Freelancing becomes increasingly impractical and decreasingly rewarding professionally as age
increases. So, in 1994, I re-entered employment with the same company I was at previously,
now as a senior consultant. I was responsible for quality and financial audits on major offers,
and troubleshooting for large international projects. I was highly respected in the business and
much sought after by branch directors and senior management.
The next year, I was to meet Linda. I did not meet her until 1995, when we were both in our

forties, so my account of her past is based on her own telling after over 20 years.
Linda was born in 1951 in Yorkshire, England. She’s a petite red-head, complete with the fiery
nature – which I of course found charming at the time. She liked walking although I didn’t, and
she later took up sailing, which I loved. Together we bought a dinghy.
Linda had been married but divorced many years earlier. Her father had left home when she
was three and she never saw him again. Being raised in a ‘broken’ home by a single mother in
the 1950s she was stigmatised, leaving an indelible imprint on her psyche. When she was a
teenager, her mother married again, but Linda’s stepfather was unkind to her. This background
may be important to her future decisions, particularly concerning homes.
Her mother died in a motorcycle accident when Linda was 17. Linda was naturally devastated,
and homeless, her stepfather uninterested in her. She lived for a year in a flat above a shop, a
property owned by a school-friend’s father, and finished her A-levels. Aged only 18,
she married and moved to Rochdale. Her then-husband was studying at Manchester University,
and Linda worked as a trainee accountant.

Their daughter Karen was born in 1973, but Linda separated from her first husband when
Karen was only 8. Now a single mother herself, Linda took a job in Derby, relocated to Ashby
de la Zouch, and bought a home. By now, she was a strong, persuasive, independent,
professional woman, dedicated to her work and her home. She built a strong career as an IT
consultant with a large UK consultancy, so had a similar position to mine in Holland.
When I moved in with Linda in 1996, Karen was 22 and just graduating. Linda fell out with
Karen for reasons I have never understood. She refused to attend Karen’s wedding to David, a
couple of years later, so I went on my own. In the following years, we had regular contact with
my family, but did not both see Karen and David again, though I visited occasionally on my own.
Once Linda and I separated, I saw much more of Karen’s family, going on camping and cycling
trips and more. Karen and David have two children, Thomas and Hannah, who still know me as
‘Granddad’.
Linda apparently had some difficulty in relationships with men. I knew that living with,
and subsequently marrying her would not be plain sailing, because she would have
occasional temper tantrums. Then, about a year after we started living together, she had a
period of psychiatric treatment. I don’t know if that was because of our co-habiting, or
something else. But I believed that love would prevail and things would improve, because
love
conquers
all,
doesn’t
it?

Chapter 2 Our shared dream
Every divorce starts with marriage
dictionary definition:

and love,

so that’s

where I’ll start – with the

Love. (Luhv). Noun:
A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person; a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for
a parent, child, or friend; sexual passion or desire; a person toward whom love is felt, a beloved person, sweetheart (used in
direct address as term of endearment, affection or the like); an intensely amorous incident…

I remember the first time I saw Linda. It was at a fountain in Seville, Spain. It sounds very
romantic, and it was. We were both there at a conference on software quality management.
This was when I was a senior consultant in Holland and she had a similar position in
Manchester. Linda gave a paper at the conference. We got chatting, then agreed to see the
beautiful city together at the weekend after the conference was over. We did some sightseeing,
visiting the Royal Palace among other places, and had a nice day out. But it was not love at
first sight. We exchanged contact details but had no contact for a year.

We met again at the same conference the following year, in Cambridge, England. This time I
gave a paper, and we would share a joke in future that her suggestion ‘we must write a paper
together ’ was an unusual chat-up line! I then visited her, on the pretext of discussing a paper for
the next conference. We met several times in Ashby de la Zouch where she lived,
and Amsterdam, where I lived. Then love happened, and things moved fast, in retrospect too
fast, but that’s love for you. Within 6 months we had decided to live together and, since she
spoke no Dutch, though I was fluent by then, we would live in England.
And we did present that paper together, at the conference in 1997 in Bath.
Events had moved quickly, but it felt right at the time. Linda and I were in our forties when we
met. We both had children from previous marriages, who were adult and independent by then.
So, we were free to start a new life together, perhaps even a new family.
And we shared a wonderful dream. We would make a home in the beautiful English
countryside, where we’d live, love, entertain friends over dinner, maybe have children together,
or adopt some, have the grandchildren over, and grow old there together. We began house
hunting during my increasingly frequent visits to Ashby.

The house or cottage would be detached, traditional with most of its original character, remote,
but with nice neighbours not too far away, have a garden which Linda would cultivate,
be surrounded by sweeping hills, but it would be within reach of the motorway network and
an airport, because we were both travelling a lot during the week with work. I was
commuting regularly to the Netherlands and other places in Europe.
The Peak District National Park seemed ideal. It has a beautiful environment that is protected
but is still within reach of motorways and of both Manchester and East Midland airports.
We agreed a budget of £140,000, which we could finance by selling my flat in Amsterdam and
Linda’s house in Ashby de la Zouch, and reusing my endowment mortgage on the Bournemouth
property, for which the mortgage was nearly paid off.
After looking at several properties we made an offer on Riverhead Farm - which we soon
nicknamed ‘Bonehead Farm’ because it was such an unusual property, not because we thought

it was a bad buy on our part. I put my Amsterdam flat on the market with some reluctance, as I
knew property prices were rising there. However, we needed the money for our new house and
she would sell her house to raise her half.
During negotiations, we were disappointed to find that a section of the land used by the current
owners was not actually owned by them, but by the farmer who owned all the surrounding land.
We spoke to the farmer and offered to buy the land from him, but he wanted an unrealistically
large sum of money. We also sensed there might be future difficulties because he owned the
surrounding land over which we needed access. So, with great disappointment, we cancelled
the purchase.
Unfortunately, under Dutch law I was not able to cancel the sale of my flat in Amsterdam. I was
obliged to complete the sale and so became ‘homeless'.
So, as a ‘temporary measure’, 6 months’ maximum we thought, I would move into Linda’s
house. I arrived at her place, complete with a lorry load of furniture and effects from Holland.
‘Bonehead Farm’ was our first major setback.

We stayed in Linda’s house in Ashby, only intended as a temporary arrangement until we found
somewhere permanent. It took two years.
To put our cohabitation on a firm footing, we had solicitors draw up a ‘separation agreement’.
This basically said that we each continued to individually own what we had before the
cohabitation, and jointly owned whatever we bought together afterwards. In the unlikely event
that we separated it would be clear who owned what.
So the house hunting continued. After driving by many houses that didn’t fit our requirements,
and viewing countless others, we began to wonder if our perfect dream home actually existed.
Then one day in 1998, Linda saw the property marketing details for The Mine House
and immediately fell in love with it.
It was a derelict, listed historical building in the breath-taking Peak District National Park. The
landscape has mostly rolling hills and grit stone escarpments. Within an hour ’s drive in any
direction were two airports, and the cities of Derby, Manchester, Sheffield and Stoke-on-Trent.
We viewed it, and decided to buy it even though it was £190,000 and needed a further £50,000
in renovations, or so we thought – so £100,000 over budget. It would also take quite some time
to renovate it before we could live there.

Our agreed budget of £140,000 just suddenly grew by over a third, to £240,000 – a
considerable stretch.
But, we were in love, found the home of our shared dream, and were game. So, we began
renovating our country home.
We decided fairly quickly we would need an architect and selected ‘P.B.’ because he had a
good sales pitch about previous conservation work, and the right approach, or so it seemed
then. He drew the plans up and got a builder ’s quote - £120,000! Rather more than the £50,000
we had budgeted. Another huge stretch.
I thought this was way too much, but Linda persuaded me to agree, first by reducing the quote
by £30,000 for fitting out, which she thought we could do ourselves, and second by promising
to contribute an additional £40,000. In other words, I would still only pay half of £50,000 as

originally planned and accounted for in our mortgage application.
Soon after signing the contract, I had the first of many unpleasant surprises from Linda. She
revealed that she did not have an additional £40,000 at all. She was referring to money she
would get from the sale of her house, which she had already committed. On top of that, she
decided later that she did not want to own more than 50% after all - I had suggested 60:40 and wanted me to raise the full 50%.
So, along with the shock at her not having the £40,000 and neglecting to tell me before signing
the contract, I had yet another budget stretch to contend with.
Then, yet another problem arose. A little while before I moved in with Linda, a large company
had applied for planning permission to put a major landfill site on what was until then greenfield
land directly behind Linda’s house in Ashby.
A protest campaign was started. Linda’s house was particularly close to the site and she would
face difficulties selling it with a landfill site there. I helped her with the campaign. In fact, Linda
and I ended up heading a national campaign, uniting similar groups across England. We raised
200 delegates at a lobby of parliament.
There was a judicial review but we lost and the landfill site was built in 1998, at around the
same time we bought The Mine House.
We also had big plans that children would live in our new home. So, we later started
the procedure for adopting one or two children, but never did, partly because the building work
took much longer than anticipated.
But we still planned that Linda and I would retire there, to love and live the dream.
Grandchildren would come and stay, and frolic in the gardens.
It never happened.
To help fund the renovations, Linda sold her house in Leicestershire. She then had more cash
than I did, but, contrary to what we agreed when we raised the renovation budget, she now
wanted to ensure that we had equal shares. So I sold her a half-share in my Bournemouth
property and used those funds towards the renovations. The Bournemouth flat was worth
£100,000 and there was no mortgage, so she paid me £50,000 and I put that money into The
Mine House to make up my 50% share. So, now we both owned 50% of both properties.
This would be important in the later divorce proceedings.

To help fund the renovations and to ensure 50:50 parity on which Linda now insisted, I also sold
my Dutch shares that I had bought with my pension, accumulated between 1980 and 1988.
I committed a lot more time and money to The Mine House than I had planned, but thought it
would be worth it as it would be a pension investment: even if we could not afford to live in it,
we could sell it for probably £500,000 after renovations were complete.
We originally planned to renovate the main house at The Mine House while living in Ashby. We
could then move in and renovate the adjacent barn at our leisure, when we had the money. But,
because of the upset with the landfill and asthma from the dust created, Linda insisted on
moving to The Mine House immediately, even though it was in poor condition. The new plan was
effectively to camp in the house while the barn was converted, then live in the barn while the
house was renovated. Instead of waiting to renovate the barn until we could afford it, we were

now committed to doing it immediately. Another budget stretch I didn’t want, the fifth!
[←1
By 2000, the architect ‘P.B.’ had broken the planning rules and we were suing him for
6]
compensation. We sealed up the barn, moved out to rented property in Ashbourne, and started
the renovation of the house ourselves at the weekends. And here was yet another budget
stretch, the sixth, as we had to pay for the additional house, and a lot of weekend time was
committed!


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