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How to get the most from your family and divorce lawyer

View profile for Shelley Cumbers
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How to get the most from your family and divorce lawyer

Family law disputes and the ending of relationships or civil partnerships can be emotionally difficult and costly, especially if they result in contested court proceedings. 

At this moment in time, the cost of legal advice is clearly important. Remember - the cheaper lawyer may not have the necessary expertise when dealing with family and divorce matters. Efficient, proactive, and experienced lawyers could be better value in the long run, providing the focus is on the settlement process.  

The parties themselves must too take some responsibility for costs. This blog will assist those facing a divorce or separation. This will examine the role in the legal process with a view to ensuring that legal costs do not run out of control.

Process is key

Choosing the right process is key. You should always ensure that you select the right process for you and your family. Specialist divorce and separation lawyers will not just offer legal advice and representation in Court, as some will have many other skills to offer.

Many couples going through a separation try to negotiate family law issues relating to children or finances with the assistance of a mediator. This is so that their respective lawyers play a cost effective, supportive role – very much in the background. 

If a proposed agreement is discussed in mediation, the lawyer can advise on how suitable the settlement is and highlight any areas which may need further consideration. Provided both parties agree to move forward with the proposals, the lawyer can then draft the necessary papers to ensure the agreement is made legally binding.

Some family lawyers will have trained as specialist collaborative lawyers which is very different from the traditional process. Here at Birkett Long we have four collaboratively trained lawyers – the largest number in Essex. 

In this process, both parties instruct a collaborative lawyer so that each has the benefit of legal advice. However, the lawyers have a very different role which is supportive of the couple and child focused. Decisions are negotiated at roundtable meetings, the couple and their lawyers agree not to go through the Court system unless negotiations completely break down. 

The couple dictate the timetable and the agenda of the meetings. Where appropriate, other professionals such as accountants and actuaries are involved in the process, receiving joint instructions from the lawyers and this also helps to reduce costs.

Choice of solicitor

Make sure the solicitor suits your chosen process. This could mean that your solicitor is supportive of mediation and able to refer you to an experienced mediator. If collaborative law is the process for you then you must ensure that your solicitor is collaboratively trained. 

For information about special qualifications you should visit the Resolution website. Legal journals such as the Chambers and Partners Guide and the Legal 500 also recommend solicitors. 

This year, in the 2021 edition of the Legal 500, our Divorce and Family team once again received a Tier 1 ranking for our expertise in divorce and family law, this identifies us as one of the leading law firms in Essex. Many solicitors are accredited specialists and have expertise in a particular area, such as: high value financial cases, children, or cohabitation. 

The accrediting organisations are The Law Society and Resolution. One of the best ways to choose a solicitor is to rely on personal recommendation. Speak to your friends, family, or professional contacts such as your accountant or financial adviser, to see who they would recommend.

Your relationship with your former partner

To properly control your legal costs (solicitor fees or court fees), it can be very useful to keep open a channel of communication with your spouse or former partner. Try to retain a working relationship as this can help to keep costs down and remember the long-term benefits of doing so, especially if you have children

Maintaining a working relationship may enable you to sort out valuations of assets together such as property or a business. Both of you will decide how the responsibility for household bills and the mortgage will be shared, whether the joint bank accounts should be closed and whether credit cards should be suspended. 

Finally, remember to provide your family lawyer with all information and documents they request from you in a timely manner. Ensure you provide full details in relation to your case. This means your lawyer can tailor their advice and help guide you through the legal process. They will assist you in making important decisions at a time when you may feel unable to do so.

To find out more about how we can help, please contact us for a free 15 minute initial consultation.

I am a family solicitor and collaborative lawyer and can be contacted on 01206 217378 or