If you’re thinking of getting a divorce, then you may need the help of a qualified family solicitor. A family law firm specialises in law relating to divorce, child arrangements and financial settlements and can help you negotiate the divorce process. But how do you choose a family law firm? What divorce solicitor is right for you? What should you look for when choosing a family lawyer? And how much does a divorce lawyer charge? Keep reading for answers to all these questions and more in your comprehensive guide to choosing a family law firm.
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Why do I need a divorce or a family solicitor?
Family lawyers are qualified and experienced in all aspects of family law. So, if you want to separate or get a divorce then it can be sensible to speak to a divorce solicitor for advice.
Even if you have come to an amicable arrangement with your spouse and you’re trying to avoid going to court, a solicitor can still check over your agreements to ensure you’re protected and that the paperwork is legally binding.
If you can’t afford a solicitor for the entire process, then speaking to a family lawyer initially can help you to understand your position and how the divorce procedure works. You may decide to employ a solicitor to help you with certain parts of the process, but not others.
The two parties in the divorce are the:
- petitioner – you complete the court forms and apply for the divorce. A solicitor can help you to complete the paperwork correctly to avoid delays.
- respondent – you have to ‘respond’ to the divorce papers when you receive them. Again, a solicitor can help you to complete these correctly. They can also give you advice on the contents of the divorce petition, so you understand it fully before proceeding.
When you decide to enlist the services of a divorce solicitor they will also:
- help you to understand how the divorce process works. They will give you advice, so you know exactly what is happening and what you must do at each stage
- look after your interests. If the divorce is contested, then you may need a professional to fight your corner
- help you to reach an agreement, where possible. They may do this through suggesting alternative strategies such as mediation or other collaborative methods
- represent you in court, if your case goes to court.
Do I know anyone who can recommend a divorce lawyer?
So, if you’ve decided to speak to a family law firm, how do you choose the right divorce solicitor for you?
One place to start is by asking for recommendations or to use a Wiselaw ‘Wise Choice’ family lawyer by using the green section above.
You can speak to friends, family and colleagues to find out if any of them have had a particularly positive experience with a solicitor or law firm.
A good lawyer will have an excellent reputation, and by speaking to people who have experienced family law in action you may find the right firm for you.
Is the family law firm a member of Resolution or accredited in another way?
There are several ways in which law firms are regulated or accredited to carry out family or divorce work. These include:
- Your solicitor should be registered with the Law Society and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Find these details on a solicitor’s website, or search either www.lawsociety.org.uk or www.sra.org.uk
- Does the family law firm display the Law Society Family Law logo? If so, this accreditation shows that the company is seen by other firms as ‘competent and caring’. The Law Society Advanced logo demonstrates an even higher service level. Additionally, the Law Society offers Lexcel accreditation to firms that apply for and meet their required standard of management practices and client care.
- Family law is a specialist area. Most specialist divorce and family lawyers are members of the organisation Resolution. Resolution is a national group of specialist family lawyers who adhere to a Code of Practice to carry out divorce work in a collaborative way. Ask if your solicitor is a member of Resolution or check the firm out on www.resolution.org.uk
- Additional awards and accreditations can include the Legal 500 and Chambers (organisations that the law firm pays a fee to, to be assessed and, they hope, accepted as a member).
Does the family law firm have experience with your specific issues?
Family and divorce law can be very varied. So, it’s important that you find a solicitor who has experience of dealing with the specific issues you are facing.
For example, if you’re worried about what happens to your children, does the firm have experience of child residence and contact issues?
Finding a firm with experience in the areas you are concerned about means you are likely to get good and tailored advice. If a firm has been through similar situations before, they will be give you honest and intelligent advice to the approach you should take.
Should I speak to more than one divorce lawyer or family law firm before making a decision?
Yes. Family law firms are not all the same, and so you should ‘shop around’ before you make a final decision.
Speak to at least two firms and ask them:
- Do they have experience in the specific issues that are relevant to you?
- Are they experienced in dealing with the family law judges in your area?
- Who will be responsible for your case? Can you speak to them when you need to, or will you deal with a junior or assistant? Can you speak to that person also?
- What type of client do they typically represent?
- How much do they charge? How does their charging process work? (see below)
- What would their approach be to your situation?
Does the family law firm offer a free initial meeting?
Before choosing a family law firm, you should try and meet a solicitor. Many firms offer a free initial consultation which gives you the opportunity to:
- find out what your rights and responsibilities are
- discuss what might happen to your children
- discuss how a financial settlement would work on divorce
- find out how the divorce process works.
An initial consultation also lets you meet a solicitor. This is an opportunity to find out if they are genuinely interested in you as a client, and whether the two of you have a rapport.
It’s important that you trust and have a good relationship with your solicitor (see below) and this is a great chance to meet them before you commit.
Do I need to have a good relationship with my divorce solicitor?
Yes. When you meet your solicitor initially ask them about their experience in cases like yours. Through your conversation, you’ll find out whether you are comfortable with them and whether they have your best interests at heart.
You will potentially be discussing personal and sensitive issues with your solicitor, so it’s important that you feel comfortable and safe talking about your children, financial matters and anything else relevant to your divorce.
Keeping a clear line of communication with your family lawyer is critical. If they don’t understand what it is you want, or they don’t keep you updated with developments, then you might not get the outcome you want.
Good solicitors will keep you informed at all times, request your input on important matters, and help you to understand any court decisions.
It’s also important that you listen to your solicitor. You have appointed them because they are the experts, with experience in dealing with family law cases. Ignoring your solicitor’s advice can also lead to disappointment, so be prepared to take heed of their professional advice.
How much do divorce lawyers charge?
Cost is obviously an important factor when you’re deciding which family solicitor to appoint.
Fees and charges vary significantly depending on:
- the complexity of your case.
- your location (London solicitors may be more expensive than those elsewhere in the country)
- the firm’s experience
- the experience of your specific solicitor. A junior solicitor will charge a lower hourly rate than a partner, for example
Always ask for an estimate of charges at the very start of the process. Charges are typically based on an hourly rate, with many solicitors splitting an hour into ten six-minute parts for charging purposes. Different roles within a firm charge at different hourly rates, with a senior partner costing more per hour than a junior solicitor.
You should receive a regular update on costs (ideally on a monthly basis) as this will help you to keep control of your expenditure. This should come with a fully-itemised list of the work your solicitor has carried out on your behalf.
As well as fees, you may also to pay disbursements. These are fees paid by your family law firm to third parties and include items such as court fees, barrister fees or the costs of expert witnesses or specialist reports. Make sure you ask about disbursements and include them in the total estimated cost if you are comparing different firms.
Additionally, make sure that VAT is included, or at least itemised, in a quote.
What do I do if I don’t feel comfortable with my family law firm? Can I change divorce solicitor?
Occasionally, you may encounter a problem with your divorce lawyer, or you may not be happy with their service. Family law firms are committed to doing a good job for you, and so they are likely to try and sort out your issues as quickly as they can.
There are several common reasons why you may not be happy with the service you’re receiving from your family law firm:
- you can never speak to your solicitor when you want to
- your solicitor does not reply to calls or emails, or there is a significant delay in replying
- you don’t believe that your solicitor is proactively dealing with your case and moving matters on
- you believe you have been overcharged for the service
- you don’t agree with advice that your family solicitor has given you
- your solicitor is not following your requests and doesn’t understand your case and your required outcomes.
If you are still not happy with the service, you do have a right to complain. Most firms have a member of staff dedicated to dealing with client complaints, so speak to them and be very clear about what your issues are, and what you want the firm to do to put things right. Try and stay calm and outline your issues reasonably.
Solutions may include:
- your solicitor may refer you to one of their colleagues who can take on your case
- if you specifically want a male or female solicitor then a colleague may be asked to take over your case
- your case may be referred to another family law firm.
Under English law, you are entitled to instruct whichever solicitor you wish. So, if a firm has not satisfactorily responded to concerns or complaints that you have, you can change your solicitor part way through your case.
To change your solicitor, you simply have to sign a firm confirming that you want your files to be transferred to another individual or firm.
The information on this website is to be considered a guide and is therefore not legal advice. You use this information with the understanding that Wiselaw does not accept liability for any direct or indirect losses as a result of anyone relying on or acting upon the information on this website. Whilst we endeavour to provide accurate information, Wiselaw does not accept liability for any errors or omissions on this website.