Sexist stereotypes only make dealing with divorce more difficult

I thoroughly enjoyed the drama in Carol Sarler's article "Divorce your husband and watch him get rich" (30 October). Selfish man - as lazy oaf or hard-working playboy - and honest woman - stifling her potential in the fight against benefit cuts, or supporting her children and degenerate husband as she bangs her head on the glass ceiling - fight it out in the grim theatre of the family court (assuming the woman has time).

That's all I enjoyed, however. As a family lawyer, I found Sarler's article misconceived and unhelpful. She correctly demolished the sexist Daily Mail image of men destroyed by the evils of emancipated women, and then replaced it with something equally sexist and misleading.

The family court procedure changed radically this year, with divorce settlements to be based on the parties' needs, not on arbitrary formulae. Disclosure of the parties' financial positions is now to be by way of simultaneous exchange of information, in an attempt to ensure that the truth is discovered. The new protocol even pays attention to the tenor of solicitors' letters, insisting that solicitors work to minimise distress to the parties. Mediation is meant to be encouraged wherever appropriate. We are (finally) to see pension-sharing, rather than the awkward and rarely used "earmarking".

All interesting stuff, all aimed at rooting out the unfair settlements that the article complains of, and fit for the best critical journalism the New Statesman could give us. Instead, we got Sarler on a tedious old bandwagon. It's simply not enough to give us statistics without analysis, or to present extreme cases as the norm, when discussing matters as complex as gender relations and divorce. The family court should protect divorcees (and cohabitees) from their selfish and irresponsible partners, irrespective of gender. Whether it succeeds or not is an important question, whereas blaming "selfish man" (or, indeed, "emancipated woman") is just facile.

Chris Othen

How many generations will it take for feminists like Carol Sarler to join the human race again and lose the outsize chip on their shoulder? Why don't they look around and count their blessings sometimes? Consider infertility. The latest news is that ovary grafts could help women to conceive after cancer, but what of men similarly afflicted? As a sufferer of prostate cancer, for which the medication has rendered me infertile, I sympathise with women who desire children in such circumstances, but I cannot understand why men with similar desires have no research to help them to overcome their problem. A million and a half eggs have been extracted from women's wombs at enormous cost to the NHS, to help women in their infertility, and all the time further expensive research continues. How many eggs to help men, and how much funding? Zeros won't be far out in either case. Who's the winner now?

Frank Hansford-Miller
Thanet, Kent