Earlier this month Jennifer Williamson, partner in Blake Morgan’s family team, became an author when her book ‘A practical guide to menopause and family law’ was published by Law Brief Publishing Ltd.
Senior Internal Communications Executive, Livvy Hamblin, spoke with Jennifer about her contribution to continuing this all-important conversation to find out more.
Jennifer, congratulations on the book! It’s not everyday you become a published author, so I wondered if to begin with you could tell me about how this opportunity came about?
To put it simply, I made it happen! I have had a growing interest about the convergence of average divorce age and average age of onset of perimenopausal symptoms. I read an interesting book (The XX Brain by Dr Lisa Mosconi) on a holiday which examines the differences between male and female brain and consequently included quite a lot of detail about impact of hormonal changes on the brain which is what happens during perimenopause. I was struck by how much a client, simultaneously going through a divorce and experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, would have on their plate which could be to the detriment of their legal case.
I raised this as a subject on which to base a Breakfast Briefing for family lawyers with Pump Court Chambers which we hosted here at our Southampton office. Over 40 local lawyers showed up for an 8am start so it’s definitely an area of interest. I also wrote an article about the subject which was published in The IFA Magazine. I was on something of a roll so I approached Law Brief Publishing to see if they would be interested in me writing a book on the subject. They called me back about my idea the same day and it went from there.
I think to say you were on ‘something of a roll’ is a bit of understatement and it is great that your passion and your contribution to the conversation was recognised and that this was something that could be used in turn to help others. Asides from what you have mentioned already, was there anything in particular that made you want to write a book on this subject?
Firstly, it is a really interesting, topical issue, which is highly relevant to more than half of all divorces one way or another. The nature of family law is very personal and sensitive and this subject relates to helping people when their relationships have broken down.
Are there any other ways in which you being an author on this topic join up with your legal work?
The relatively recent focus on the perimenopause and menopause has given rise to queries/debate within the family law profession about how e.g. financial remedy orders could or should reflect the additional needs of menopausal people. So, there is the technical, legal element. In the book I have addressed all of the most common types of family law matters/claims and looked at how menopausal symptoms might impact these. I personally consider it very, very unlikely that the legislation will change, and I also don’t think we’re going to see any particular case law supporting a proposition for greater financial provision for menopausal people. I don’t think that would be right in any event – the points which arise and any changes which need to be made are at a far higher and broader level – more government policy and employment law change.
The other, and I consider much more important, elements are those of client care and the potential vulnerability of our clients. This is where my thinking started, and none of the (extensive) reading and research I have done has persuaded me otherwise. The perimenopause is a time of transition, of varying length for different people and adverse symptoms can be extremely severe. Not everyone suffers adverse symptoms though, and albeit not a magic bullet at all there are medicines (HRT) and other treatments available to help. If you can find the right dose, it could work for you. It’s not the place of the family court, or the family lawyer to diagnose or treat symptoms, but as advisers, where we are working with people who may be impacted by the perimenopause, we need to be aware.
Congratulations once again Jenny!
Thank you Livvy! My book is now available to buy should anyone wish to do so. All author royalties will be donated to a Menopause Charity. If you are interested in any of the topics mentioned please feel free to contact me about it. This remains an area of particular interest and development for me and the conversation is definitely ongoing!
Jennifer’s book, ‘A practical guide to menopause and family law’.
Jennifer is the guest of honour, speaking about her book at the Legally Flushed breakfast briefing later this year. Keep an eye out on our social media channels for more details of this.