Adrian Northall, Partner (Family) at Wansbroughs Solicitors in Devizes, offers advice on the role of a solicitor during a divorce
Why should I use a solicitor to oversee my divorce?
There are two main aspects to a divorce, the divorce process itself and the resolution of associated financial matters. While the divorce process is not overly complicated, even after the divorce has been finalised, either party could make a financial claim against their former spouse at any time in the future. The only way to achieve any finality in relation to finances is by an Order of the Court. There is no set formula for calculating a financial settlement on divorce – the Court has to consider all the circumstances in each individual case.
When considering these circumstances, different judges may reach a range of different solutions on identical facts, all of which would be within their judicial discretion. There is case law, however, that has established the overall approach the Court should take, which is why it is important to always seek independent advice from a solicitor specialising in Family Law. If you do not use a solicitor you run the risk of agreeing to something that is not in your best interests. Alternatively, if you are the party with the greater financial resources, you may be agreeing to something that may leave you vulnerable to further claims, should the finances not be dealt with properly.
How long does the process take and what can I expect to pay in solicitors’ fees?
These two are the most frequently asked questions at the start of a divorce and sorting out associated financial matters. Typically, the divorce process itself takes around 4 to 6 months but only if it is reasonably straightforward. It can take longer than this if there are complications. It is usually advisable to wait until you have a financial settlement before taking the final step, which is to apply for the Decree Absolute. The current court fee for a divorce is £550; if you have a solicitor representing you, you will have their fees on top of that which will vary depending upon how straightforward or how complicated the process has been.
When it comes to financial matters, if all issues are agreed relatively quickly, then a solicitor can draft a Financial Consent Order and send this to the court as soon as the divorce reaches Decree Nisi stage. This means that the financial matters may be concluded within the same 4 to 6 months as the divorce itself. However, more often than not resolving financial matters can take much longer. In cases that involve complex finances and / or the parties simply cannot agree what the outcome should be, then the time estimate will run to years rather than months. It really depends on the individual case and more often than not, it is very hard to provide a time estimate at the outset because the major determining factor is the approach of the parties. If one spouse is particularly difficult, then it will take much longer to reach a conclusion than a case with two reasonable parties.
My relationship has hit the rocks. Other than divorce, what options are open to us?
Judicial Separation: If you are married and you wish to separate but you do not want to divorce, you may wish to consider a Judicial Separation. You can still resolve most of the financial matters in the same way as a divorce, however, you remain married but legally separated.
Separation Agreement: If you do not intend to divorce or consider Judicial Separation, you may wish to make your financial arrangements formal by entering into a written Separation Agreement. These are not binding in the same way as an Order from the Court and either party could still start Divorce proceedings and make an application to Court to commence Financial Proceedings, but they can be a useful way of documenting what the parties have agreed.
Marriage Counselling: If the relationship is on the rocks then marriage counselling can help couples work to save their marriages. If counselling does not help, the mediation process is available to help couples work out a way to achieve as amicable as possible a separation / divorce.
The above is not a substitute for legal advice and if you are considering separation or divorce you should go see a solicitor. At Wansbroughs, we provide friendly, supportive and expert legal advice to try to help our clients to resolve their difficulties. We offer advice on all family matters and provide all clients with an initial free half hour appointment within which we can discuss what options are available to you and how best to proceed.
Adrian Northall, Partner (Family) at Wansbroughs Solicitors