So love is like a law degree. Who would have thought? If you asked me two years ago when I began my law degree I would have scoffed at such an idea. Freshly 18, in the midst of my first real relationship, I thought I knew everything there was to know about love. It seemed ridiculous that sentencing, sanctions and tort law would have anything to do with well, feelings.
But a couple of years and unsuccessful relationships later, I realise that that there are some legal principles which extend beyond the classroom (and courtroom!). Although disclaimer (Contract Law 101: Always include an “exclusion of liability” clause), I was hardly the best student, so I probably wouldn’t rely on these descriptions for your exam notes next semester.
Actus Novus Interveniens
Actus Novus Interveniens, or intervening act, refers to the occurrence of an act or event which breaks the connection between the action of the defendant, and the harm suffered by the victim. Although in tort law when we are talking about intervening acts we are typically looking at extraordinary natural disasters, here I think of almost relationships. We have all been there. We meet someone, we click, we become closer but we become never truly “official.” We may blame extraneous forces like crazy exes or work hours but in the end there are no intervening acts. In any relationship there are two people. And if those two people want to be together, they will. There is no mystical force and natural disaster keeping them apart. It is that simple.
Oh constitutional law… the persona designate principle provides that subject to a couple of exceptions, a Judge vested with Federal Jurisdiction may be appointed a role which is incompatible with Judicial Power, so long as this is in a personal, rather than official, capacity. I never understood how you could split a person into two. That was, until I did it myself. In the “honeymoon stage” of any new relationship, I find that I am guilty of ignoring the less desirable traits of my partner.
We can pretend, subconsciously, that the boy or girl who introduces us to our parents or takes us to our favourite restaurant is not the same person as the one who lies, is rude to the waitress, or thinks that we can afford to drop a couple of pounds. But the question I pose is, to what degree can we really disassociate the bad traits from the good embedded within the people we love? I mean after all, Justice Matthews could not run an inquiry about Hindmarsh Island AND serve as a Federal Court Judge.
You may love that boy to bits and wish to blissfully ignore these traits, but in the end, we cannot split a person in two.
In Australian family law, irreconcilable differences refers to a no-fault reason for divorce. This means there is no culpability, no criminal or cheater responsible for the breakdown of a marriage. At the start of my law degree, I never would have thought it was possible to witness a break-up where neither party was particularly responsible for its ending.
But sometimes, down to their bone marrow, two people may be simply incompatible. And sometimes, this incompatibility can simply be too great for either party to handle. It does not mean that these people did not give the relationship their all. And it does not mean that either person was shit. What it means is, at the time, it was simply not meant to be.
Perhaps it was a case of wrong timing. But for now, for no fault of your own (or theirs), you may be incompatible.