As a divorce lawyer I am often asked what my general advice is for people contemplating or going through divorce. I thought it might be helpful for me to provide a brief summary via my blog in the hope it will prove helpful for people in this situation.
Seek early advice
Far too many times I deal with divorce cases involving assets or children disputes and the parties have attempted to settle matters themselves. They have set in motion a status quo or some transaction which is either impossible or difficult to undo and therefore their position is ultimately worse than it needed to be. This is not to discourage people working together to reach an agreement, that could ultimately save both time and money but do so in conjunction with a legal expert.
Don't be scared of asking for help
Now I understand people's reluctance to seek legal advice, the thought of an appointment with a lawyer strikes fear into people, perhaps that they will be spoken to in legal jargon and leave none the wiser or that they will have had to re-mortgage their house just to talk to the solicitor. This is rarely the case. Many law firms offer complimentary initial advice or fixed fee arrangements and there is an emphasis on making sure clients understand what can be complex information.
I am almost positive that no client has ever left an initial meeting with me feeling worse than when they arrived. Family solicitors are not miracle workers and we will not change the personal circumstances that led you to seek our advice but we will explain the law and how this affects you and this knowledge can be a tremendous comfort.
Find out where you stand
Even if a divorce is something you are just contemplating, it helps to know where you stand. Ultimately the decisions are yours, lawyers provide advice but do not make decisions on behalf of their clients.
Of course, when I say advice, I am not just talking legal. It may also be in the form of financial or relationship counselling etc. I recently appeared on a TV show alongside a representative for the counselling service Relate and she agreed that it was the same with their service, quite often it was too late by the time people sought their advice. More information about their services can be found at http://www.relate.org.uk/
Choose the right lawyer
This may not be as simple as it sounds, after all if you've never needed a family solicitor it would be hard to form your own opinion. As a consumer of anything I am always sceptical when reading testimonials on a website, as any business is likely to cherry-pick the best comments to make public. Unfortunately, divorce is all too common and you are almost certain to know many people who have been in your situation before. A personal recommendation is a good way to get unbiased feedback. However, always keep in mind how your objectives may differ from those of others you are talking to. I am always delighted when new clients come to me on the recommendation of others, it helps me know I am making the difference I set out to achieve.
Make use of existing networks
A great place to start is http://www.resolution.org.uk/ Resolution is an organisation representing family lawyers and other professionals dedicated to the constructive resolution of family disputes. Their members focus on the needs of the whole family and in particular the best interest of children. I am a member of Resolution and I would highly recommend you chose a practitioner who is. A list can be found on their website.
Be careful who you listen to
I probably can't even count the amount of times a client came to me with advice they have picked up from X down the pub or Y's sister's friend's uncle. It's great that people want to help at difficult times and of course friends and family are invaluable. However, they are unlikely to be the best source of legal advice. Cases are decided on the individual circumstances of each case, therefore two peoples experience and outcomes are likely to differ greatly. Trust the expert advice you are paying for. If you have doubts about your legal representative then seek the advice of another. It took many years to qualify into our roles, there is a good reason for that.
Don't believe everything you read
The internet can cause similar problems. There are so many websites out there dispensing unregulated advice. Again, a difference in circumstances or your country of residence can render even the best advice immediately unhelpful. There are some websites which you may find useful thought, check out:
Only mums http://www.onlymums.org/
Only dads http://www.onlydads.org/
I sincerely hope you found this brief guide helpful, please share it to help other people who may need support. For more information about my legal practise or for further advice please go to http://laurenriley.co.uk/lauren-riley-lawyer/