Byline: by Laura Topham
HAD someone told Vanessa Lloyd Platt three years ago that she had a lot to learn about divorce, she'd probably have laughed in their face. As Britain's best-known divorce lawyer, she has spent her life helping couples chart a path through separation, and is often seen on TV offering advice on matrimonial breakdown.
But it was only when her own marriage ended, painfully and acrimoniously in 2007, that she discovered some very brutal home truths.
'I knew it all in theory from the thousands of clients I've helped, but there were still lessons I'd yet to learn.' Now, Vanessa has been involved in making a film -- being screened this month at the Notting Hill Film Festival -- which tells the story of how she recovered from the emotional desolation of divorce to find happiness in a new relationship, with a little help, as we shall see, from a very surprising new hobby.
For Vanessa to have emerged relatively unscathed is particularly surprising since her 16-year marriage to Daniel Lloyd Platt ended very publicly and very messily.
It culminated in both parties being arrested last summer -- he for supposedly planning to poison Vanessa, she for perverting the course of justice by accusing him of that crime. Both charges were swiftly dropped.
Yet today, the blonde 54-year-old is more content than ever, having discovered life as a divorcee can be fun, exciting and liberating.
What's so intriguing about her story is that she experienced divorce not only through the eyes of a high-flying woman, but as a leading divorce lawyer herself.
A pretty, bubbly character with regular appearances on shows such as GMTV, Sky News and Richard & Judy, Vanessa runs her own legal practice and is renowned for representing highprofile clients and celebrities such as Anne Diamond and Les Dennis.
But she is quick to stress that the devastating impact of divorce does not discriminate.
'When people looked at me they would see me as positive and confident, but in my personal life I certainly was not.
'This is true of many women I have acted for, the highest fliers you can possibly imagine -- businesswoman, judges, barristers, top stars and financial advisers: all people you would never believe had no confidence but actually are, underneath it all, in their personal life, what I'd describe as "mush".
'The way they feel when their relationships end is indescribable because they are the kind of women who want to be perfect at everything they do, therefore it's anathema to them that having tried everything, their relationship hasn't worked. They can feel very, very vulnerable when the relationship breaks down.' It is a sentiment Vanessa can now relate to only too well. Though her marriage had been crumbling for years, she'd continued to hope she could to make it work. But in 2007, she and Daniel finally filed for divorce.
'We'd been unhappy for years,' she says. 'But I stayed, hoping we could become happy again. In the end I realised enough was enough -- I had to accept it was over. In February 2007, I told Daniel I was starting divorce proceedings and he agreed. I think we both felt relieved.
'The weeks and months that followed that decision were the hardest. We were still living together until the divorce and finances had been settled -- many couples do until financial matters have been resolved -- but sitting in different rooms and not getting on, which was very unpleasant.' Things became so difficult between the couple that Vanessa even became convinced Daniel was trying to poison her and swore a statement to police to that effect.
He was arrested in November 2007 but cleared three months later of accusations that he said were '110 per cent false and grotesquely embarrassing'.
Police then arrested Vanessa in August 2008 on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice before announcing in September that she would face no charges. …