It's been reported that cricketer Shane Warne's ex-wife Simone is far from happy with Liz Hurley declaring that Simone's children call her 'Mummy Two'.
Setting aside the fact that I cannot think of a single child on the planet that would call their father's girlfriend 'Mummy Two' (never mind a 14- and a 12-year-old) the story raises some interesting points regarding child contact when the parents are divorced.
In my experience, when there is no third party involved child contact arrangements often move along quite amicably. The adults agree a timetable that suits both households and the parents often do each other favours, such as forgoing a weekend because the other has an important family occasion, or having the children at short notice to help the other out.
However, if there is a third party in the picture - in the ex-Mrs Warne's case, Elizabeth Hurley - then reasonable behaviour often goes out the window and instead the children are used as bargaining chips in the battle for supremacy.
I cannot tell you how many clients I have acted for whose ex has made seeing the children a task more complicated than filling in a tax return one hour to deadline and without any receipts. It pains me to criticise my own sex, but so often I have dealt with mothers who stop their ex-husbands from seeing their children as some form of payback for their husband having the temerity to have found a girlfriend.
Now I'm not suggesting for a second that Simone Warne is preventing contact but what I am suggesting is that sometimes, the new girlfriend/wife might care to think carefully before chirpily declaring: "Oh the children absolutely ADORE me, they're already calling me Mummy Bunny Chops!" This kind of boast always, but always, gets back to the ex-wife who will, without exception, react with utter fury. Most content themselves with fuming privately to their girlfriends but a few will decide it is beyond the pale and start being extremely awkward about contact.
Ultimately, the only ones who suffer in such situations are the children, who are usually bewildered, often frightened and almost always trying desperately to please everyone.
La Hurley's son Damian is now 10 years old, although his mother only recently gave up lugging him round on her hip like a giant baby, dressed as Gainsborough's Blue Boy. Warne's children are 14 and 12 years old. I therefore can't help wondering whether "Mummy Two" was Hurley's own construct.
Simone seems a sensible sort of woman so if I was advising her, it would be to rise above it, keep smiling and keep the contact arrangements intact. She might not think so now, but her children will thank her for it one day.
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