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Legal Introduction

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Separation can be a distressing experience - don't give up when you need advice If your marriage is unhappy you may feel you need advice. Some people stay in a marriage because they are worried about the legal consequences of leaving and what the future holds for them. The law surrounding the divorce process is full of myths and it is important at an early stage to get legal advice. Choosing a solicitor can be a very stressful experience in itself. Many solicitors offer an initial free consultation and most will give some advice on the telephone. At least enough to decide if you need to take the matter further and to see if you feel confident that the solicitor is the right one for you.

Never be worried about requesting information about fees. It is very important that this is one of the first things that you do. Most dissatisfaction with solicitors comes from unexpectedly high legal fees. Having the right legal advisor is extremely important as the outcome of your divorce can have far reaching implications for your future financial security and the welfare of your children. You must feel comfortable with them and not feel embarrassed about confiding in them and that your concerns are being heard.

There will be times when your solicitor has to give you unpalatable advice because of the way the law is structured in this country. Whilst you may not like the advice your solicitor must be able to explain the reasons behind it. You should not at any time be in the situation where you do not understand what is going on or what each stage is going to cost you. As far as possible you should be given choices particularly in relation to the structure of financial settlements but ultimately the decision rests with you. As can be seen below, the procedure for resolving financial issues through the Court is a good deal more streamlined than it used to be but it is still expensive and time consuming. Therefore the more that can be agreed between you and your spouse, the better it will be, particularly for any children. It is always a good idea however, to get advice on what you are entitled to you before discussions take place and then be prepared to compromise!

As a rough guide the costs of a solicitor for a divorce should be in the region of £600 + vat + Court fees (many solicitors charge more than this so be aware). If there is a dispute about children and/or financial issues costs will be considerably more. Most solicitors work on a system of hourly rates so get an estimate of the maximum each stage will cost. Put a restriction on the solicitor so that a given figure is not exceeded without your consent.

If you are on a low income you may be entitled to public funding. Your local Citizen's Advice Bureau can often assess eligibility. Otherwise, solicitors who carry out work on this basis can be found in Yellow Pages.

However, most cases settle and sometimes a firm line in terms of involving the Courts is necessary to achieve the desired outcome. When cases settle, the costs will be considerably less than as set out. If a matter gets to a final hearing, usually one or both of the parties are being unreasonable and this is something your solicitor will advise you about. For this reason it is important to instruct a conciliatory solicitor. Although initially you may be angry and feel you want to have a solicitor with a reputation for being aggressive, this often only adds to bitterness.

The following pages provide an overview of the key aspects of the divorce process in England and Wales. Although it is possible to conduct your own divorce (see DIY divorce pages) when there are complications in respect of finances or orders related to children, it is recommended that legal advice be taken.

Some Do's and Don'ts on Separation:

  • Remember that although you may no longer be together, you will always both be the children's parents. Put the children first
  • Keep the door open to dialogue
  • Substitute politeness if love has gone
  • Be aware of the positive benefits of couselling in helping you cope with your changing relationship with your partner
  • Be ready to compromise - an agreement between you is more likely to work than an order imposed by the Court
  • Tolerate threats or violence. Ask your solicitor how the law can help you.
  • Sign or agree to anything without first speaking to your solicitor
  • Let your partner undermine your confidence in your solicitor
  • Expect the best of your partner, or of yourself. Aspire to reasonableness
  • Leave confidential documents where they can be found

Flowchart Overviews

The Divorce Process Financial Orders (Ancillary Relief) Children Orders (Contact and Residence)