Divorce Day: Where to start

As many head back to work this week after the Christmas and New Year break the first Monday of the first working week has been labelled by the media as Divorce Day for some years the day when enquiries about divorce are said to be at their peak.

So Christmas is over, the financial stress and increased time together has not helped to repair difficulties in your marriage: Where do you start?

Online Services:

The starting point for many is an online search for information or an online enquiry. This information gathering process is sensible but it can be difficult to know what is relevant and can be equally difficult to apply general information to specific facts.

For those with no assets, no disputes about children and little money to pay on legal fees and a general consensus that there should be a divorce, online services may be a sensible option. It is advisable to research these:

  • Some services are provided by qualified solicitors, others are not.
  • Some fail to emphasise that you are cting in personi.e. dealing with the divorce yourself and they are just providing you with information and the relevant forms this means that if you face a hiccup in proceedings, the online service provider can just abandon you and leave you to sort it out.
  • Those who encourage you to pay a low fee for a pack of forms are often just charging you for information that can be downloaded free of charge from the Ministry of Justice website.

Solicitor Services:

For those who need a bit of help in knowing which way to turn, the free initial appointment with a solicitor remains invaluable. A solicitor is unlikely to be able to tell you the nswerin an initial appointment, but can give you information about your immediate situation which often gives reassurance and enables you to focus on what needs to be done, if anything, straightaway. A solicitor will give you information about alternative processes which may be cheaper and more suitable to your situation, such as family mediation. You will be given advice about what further information you need to obtain to enable you to obtain more specific legal advice as to possible outcomes. Some solicitors limit the time to 20 or 30 minutes and then charge you, others such as Emsleys provide the first appointment entirely free of charge.

If you face an unavoidable battle ground and tensions are running high, there are lots of ways to keep your legal costs manageable. Make sure you have a solicitor who is a member of Resolution i.e. one who keeps to a code of practice not to run up legal costs for you by dealing with your case in an unnecessarily adversarial way. You want a solicitor who will sensibly support and give you the right advice legally to obtain a fair outcome, not pick costly fights about issues not worth fighting about. Many solicitors offer payment plans, fixed fees to keep to a budget, a pay as you go service and if need be, can help you with applications to lenders who loan you fees which can then be paid out from the sale of a house or a lump sum. Emsleys offers all of these options. It is important, however uncomfortable you feel about it, to communicate about fees and be realistic about what you can afford: If you find it difficult to talk about fees, communicate by email or letter with your solicitor before you face an unexpectedly high bill: Your solicitor will want to give you the best possible service but this may mean spending far more time on your case than you anticipated.

Free Advice:

There are lots of free resources to help those who have very limited money to fund legal fees: Your local County Court/Family Court will have a public service unit staffed by a rota of law students. The Citizen Advice Bureau often operates a rota of local solicitors who will attend to offer free advice. The Government has published an online advice information service to help those divorcing. The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) website and calculator are an invaluable resource for many. Legal aid remains available to those financially eligible for family mediation it can be much cheaper to negotiate face-to-face in the presence of a mediator and turn to a solicitor for specific legal advice, than to engage a solicitor to negotiate on a time taken basis and pay for each letter and telephone call.

Members of Emsleys family team are Resolution solicitors: Gabbie Clasper is accredited by Resolution nationally as an expert in financial cases and Andrew Smith is a nationally accredited family mediator who can offer a legal aid service for family mediation to those who are financially eligible. Members of the family team are accredited by the Law Society as experts in Family Law. We offer an initial appointment free of charge at any of our offices and can give you an estimate of our fees and information about payment plans and funding during your appointment. If you then decide you want to instruct us, we confirm the work we have agreed with you that we are to carry out on your behalf and estimate our fees in writing. We ask you to sign documentation before incurring any charges. The family team assistant Abbey can help you with any additional preliminary enquiries you may have: abbey.thompson@emsleys.co.uk or call Abbey on 0113 201 4900.

Gabbie  Clasper

Written by

Gabbie Clasper

Head of Family Law

Gabbie has over 20 years’ experience in family law. She has expert knowledge in complex issues including financial aspects following divorce; pre and post-nuptial agreements; cases with an international element; and civil partnerships. Gabbie is regularly instructed by clients based across the country and abroad. She...

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