In recent years, the perception has arisen that January is the month most likely for clients to talk to solicitors about divorce. This is actually an urban myth. Whilst it may be true that some families fall out over the festive period or get involved in financial difficulties which result in a realisation that things are not working, there is no significant increase in people seeking to discuss divorce at this time of year. In fact solicitors can often give advice about these problems which can actually make things better in the family dynamic. However, it is clear that one or both parties are of the view that the marriage is dead then it ought to be buried. At that point, the need to see a solicitor becomes essential.
The first thing that your solicitor ought to discuss with you is not the actual grounds for divorce or the costs, but the practicalities of the new arrangement. Who is going to move out of the house and when? How are the bills to be spilt? Most importantly, what arrangements are there to be for contact with the children? In the mid to long term, arrangements will have to be made for a fair division of the matrimonial assets. If a couple is going to be living separately, as far as possible they ought to cut their financial ties with each other. Nowadays, it is increasingly popular for couples to enter into a structured financial agreement known as a Deed of Separation. This can not only deal with the division of assets fairly, speedily and relatively inexpensively; it can also make provision for the divorce procedure. However it is dependent on both parties being open and honest with regard to the financial assets and having independent legal advice before the Agreement is entered into. There will always be some direct interaction between parties in a break up, and this is to be encouraged so long as it is mature and non-confrontational. There are many aspects of a relationship which solicitors could not hope to successfully involve themselves in, and whilst we are always prepared to act as a message service when dealing with matters such as contact, payment of bills, or other matters, these are not really issues that are best handled by a solicitor.
David Brewster is a qualified collaborative law practitioner. This qualification is earned by attending an intensive course which permits a slightly less formal approach to discussions in which solicitors and clients can sit around a table in one room and discuss issues in an open, non-confrontational setting. This system has proved to be both more efficient at resolving issues, and considerably cheaper than the traditional method of exchanging solicitors’ letters and bundles of documents. It is an option which we would be happy to exercise when appropriate.
In general terms, we will have an initial lengthy consultation trying to assess the issues that need to be resolved, obtaining an approximate indication of the assets which will have to be considered and also the grounds and timescale for any possible divorce. We will consider whether Legal Aid is available. However there has been significant changes in the way in which Legal Aid funds cases which will have to be discussed. As far as possible we will try to set out both a budget and probable timescale. There may be specific issues which require urgent attention such an obtaining an injunction of a property, or indeed obtaining a Non-Molestation Order for the protection of a client, or an Occupation Order to permit access to a property. Of pressing concern is the need to ensure a fair division of the couple’s income, either by agreement or by obtaining a court order for maintenance.
If you wish to arrange an appointment to discuss any of the issues in relation to this matter, or simply discuss your options, please do not hesitate to contact our office. It would be of assistance if you would prepare for your initial consultation.
- 22 Jan, 2015
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