No Such Thing as a Free DivorcePublished on: 02 June 2017
I doubt I am the only one suffering from “election fatigue” and longing for 9th June. However, I was amused by the exchange during Wednesday’s televised debate, when Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru pointed out to Paul Nuttall of UKIP that there is no such thing as a free divorce (in relation to the plans outlined for the UK’s departure from the EU).
Turkey voting for Christmas
To take her entirely literally, she has a point! Even if that turns out to be the only accurate thing said by any politician in the whole lead-up to the election (and I’ll leave you, Dear Reader, to be the judge of that) it’s fair to say that the people involved in divorce proceedings do nevertheless have a significant role to play in keeping the costs of the process as low as possible. The expression “turkey voting for Christmas”, to keep up the election theme, might spring to mind when a lawyer writes an article about how to pay your lawyer less, but essentially the solicitor should be as motivated to help the parties emerge with their dignity intact and a sense of mutual goodwill, especially when children are involved, as with the size of the bills delivered. This is common and commercial sense, in the short and long terms.
Whilst certain expenses, such as Court fees, Land Registry search fees, etc are largely unavoidable there is scope for sensible agreements to be reached over whether these should be split between the parties and in what proportion.
Forming a mutual understanding of what you both want to achieve before seeing the solicitor can also be a huge bonus in terms of everyone saving money later (even if meeting face-to-face is too emotionally fraught or impractical, polite and respectful email / text exchanges can help foster good communications that pave the way for sensible negotiations once a solicitor becomes involved). I am not suggesting that everything has to be agreed and tied-up before involving the solicitor since neither person should commit themselves to anything before getting advice, but even being able to identify the points on which you cannot agree is a useful exercise which reduces the amount of time spent in protracted meetings and correspondence with and between lawyers.
Mediation & Collaborative law
Mediation is a great tool for working through issues to try to reach agreement and the Courts now require parties to attempt it. The costs of a mediator are usually lower than a solicitor’s hourly rate, although both parties will need to seek legal advice on any agreement they reach in mediation, and there are proper measures in place to ensure the parties are physically safe.
Collaborative law serves a similar purpose and we are fortunate to have two collaboratively-trained lawyers in our Family Law team.
However, with the best will in the world, sometimes it is simply not possible to reach agreement. Whilst that is not necessarily an indication that one or both are being unreasonable, starting court proceedings in such cases to deal with finances or children can, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, be helpful. Instead of funds being spent on correspondence and meetings which seem to be leading nowhere, those resources can be ploughed into getting a Court timetable and ensuring all the steps required are dealt with fully and thoroughly in order that the Court has everything it needs to be able to assist the parties. Dealing sensibly with Court proceedings and being open with your information can help to bring about settlements at the first, rather than third or fourth, Court hearing with very obvious financial advantages for both parties.
Personalised pricing structures
At the end of the day (to return to an expression much-favoured by politicians), whatever is spent unnecessarily on fractious proceedings simply means there is less available, financially and emotionally, for the parties to be able to move on and re-build after a difficult time.
We offer personalised pricing structures to give clients options and help them make the right decision about their case and their priorities.