Legally, you do not have to use a divorce solicitor, and in cases which have few assets or none, a DIY divorce can be straightforward. However, even where there is only the former family home to deal with, a solicitor can guide you through what can be a legal minefield.
Need specialist family law advice?
Slater Heelis is a highly respected law firm, established over 250 years ago and serving clients across the UK and abroad. Their specialist family law team is consistently ranked highly in Chambers & Partners and The Legal 500 guides. They are entirely dedicated to issues relating to divorce, children, family finances, relationship agreements, and all other legal issues arising from relationship breakdown. Employing only the brightest and best, the firm has an exceptional record in successfully representing clients across the UK in family law matters.
Complications can arise for a separating couple when there are assets (e.g. home, savings), or children involved. Additionally, if there are other aspects of the relationship that make things less straightforward, e.g. the existence of a prenup, or a spouse has a connection outside of the UK, then being guided by a solicitor may we a wise move.
That said, even in seemingly straightforward cases, a solicitor can:
- Explain the divorce process and let you know what happens and what you need to do at each stage
- Discuss the relevant options available to you, including using alternative dispute resolution such as mediation or collaborative law
- Complete the divorce application, which starts the process
- Help you reach an agreement with your ex-spouse without having to attend court
- Give you support and help you with any related legal issues, such as where any children will live, or financial disclosure, for instance
If the matter progresses to court, your solicitor or barrister will represent you there and present your case to the judge. For those at risk of domestic violence, their solicitor will make it a priority to keep their client and any children safe.
Reasons you may need a divorce solicitor
There are many benefits from using an experienced solicitor, fundamentally these can be broken down into the following:
It saves time
If any forms are completed incorrectly, the court will return them. This has the effect of delaying the divorce until the forms are amended and resubmitted correctly. There are many instances where the court has refused to progress a divorce because there has been a failure to provide all the relevant information in the correct format.
This is not just in relation to the divorce application, there are other forms to complete, such as the Financial Disclosure form (known as a “Form E”), which can be overwhelming. If you instruct a divorce solicitor, they will ensure the case is moving forward, comply with any filing deadlines and Court Orders.
You can avoid going to court
It is only natural to fear going to court; it can be an emotionally exhausting process. If one of you is not represented, the chances of you ending up in court increases significantly. This is because one of you is not being guided and there is a tendency in such cases for indivudals to get themselves bogged down in ill-feelings surrounding the breakup. A divorce solicitor gives you an objective view; they know what the court may consider a fair settlement and realistically show the likely outcome so you dont have to go to court to find out. People without a solicitor don’t have that outside viewpoint, and as a result can become lost in only seeing court as the answer.
Ensuring your best interests are served
Every divorce solicitor is determined to get the best outcome for their client. For those who don’t use a solicitor, it may not be obvious what is in their best interests, or whether any proposals set out by their ex-spouse’s solicitor are the best that can be achieved. A divorce solicitor also provides a “buffer”- they are the first to receive correspondence from your former partner and the court. This allows them to filter and explain the information to you in a clear and concise way, which helps to reduce anxiety and stress.
Instructing a solicitor may seem to be an extravagance you can ill-afford, but in most cases, they will save you money in the long term by negotiating a better deal. Getting the right legal advice is vital, because being unrepresented may leave you at a disadvantage.
Avoiding a stalemate
Divorcing couples rarely see eye to eye, and this means you can get caught up in a never-ending cycle of arguments, as opposed to resolving matters sensibly. Divorce solicitors can break the deadlock and get things moving again.
Locate hidden assets or information
Spouses can hide certain assets or information if they think it will get them a better deal. Divorce solicitors are experts in locating financial assets by noticing potentially questionable actions which you would otherwise not detect.
Jurisdiction is the country where divorce proceedings relating to your divorce are issued. In marriages where there is an international element, the matter of jurisdiction is likely to be of consideration. If you were married in England or Wales, live in England or Wales and wish to get divorced, you can use any court in any area local to you. So, if, for example, you were married in Birmingham, and now live in Sheffield, you could decide to issue the divorce proceedings in Sheffield.
Do I have to use a LOCAL solicitor?
You are not obliged to instruct a solicitor who is local to you, such as in your local town. This means you can choose the solicitor who not only best suits your needs but also one who is an expert in a particular area. For example, you may have received an inheritance or have extensive pension provision, which may require specialist advice. With the use of online video meeting platforms and email, it makes communication very easy no matter where the solicitor in bases in the UK.
How do I choose a divorce solicitor?
Here are some suggestions:
- Use Wiselaw to search for solicitors across the UK
- Your solicitor should have Professional Indemnity Insurance; this covers any advice they give you
- Choose a family law specialist – a solicitor who deals with a wide range of areas may not have the same level of expertise as someone who only deals with divorce and family law.
- Are they a member of Resolution? Members conduct their cases in a constructive and non-confrontational way, which aims to settle cases amicably via negotiation rather than going to court.
- Are they a collaborative lawyer or mediator? If relevant to you, these are alternative methods of resolving disputes without going to court.
- Are they respected nationally or locally? There are several committees both nationally and locally (e.g. Resolution, Family Mediators Association, Law Society Family Law Committee) which promote law reform and best practice. Solicitors who play such roles generally hold progressive views.
Using an online divorce service
This is an additional option for those who do not want to go it alone or instruct a solicitor in the more common way. Online services can be low-cost, which can be useful especially if your divorce is completely straightforward with no assets or children. However, whatever divorce solicitor you opt for, you must always choose the one who is best suited to your own situation.
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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.