How to get the right advice for your divorce

Heart in the Sand

If I were to break my leg, there is a very long list of people I’d call to help me before I plumped for a carpenter. Whilst he’d doubtless be able to knock up some really nice splints, I’d probably have some fairly strong reservations about the extent of his medical abilities.

One of the big problems when it comes to someone’s divorce is that almost everyone seems to have an opinion on it and is keen to share that opinion whether you want it or not – often in the form of advice which is probably more likely to hinder than it is to help.

Common little gems of insight often include things like urging you to ‘save’ costs by not seeking legal representation (more on DIY divorces in a moment), or taking on the legal Rottweiler who’ll make sure your spouse pays for the part they’ve played in your ongoing unhappiness.

But the fact is, the majority of people who are facing the end of a marriage want to resolve their divorce efficiently, to the best possible advantage and at the lowest possible cost.

That means ending a relationship in the right way begins by starting a new one – with a solicitor.

Google is full of information about how to get the right advice when you’re beginning the process of divorce. Some of it is good and some of it is appallingly bad. The problem is sorting the one from the other. Which means all internet research should be treated with caution.

By and large, unless you have professional experience of the process, steer clear of DIY divorces. They look cheap from the outside, but they can end up costing you dearly if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.

Having the right divorce solicitor is almost always the best approach. That means finding someone with a proven track record of getting results. But it’s also important that you like and trust the lawyer you choose, because you’ll be sharing information that is private and often highly personal. Working with the right personality makes the process easier.

Bear in mind, too, that these days our courts prefer resolution through mediation or negotiation rather than confrontation in a courtroom, so it’s best to avoid companies that seem to favour an overly bullish approach to the way they do business.

My maternal grandfather, who was one of the truly wise people I’ve known in my life, was always fond of saying that you catch more flies with honey. The danger in ending up with an unnecessarily aggressive solicitor is that it could result in an adverse costs order – the last thing you need in a process where costs need to be kept to a minimum.

It’s a good idea to check whether the solicitor you might want to use is a member of Resolution, an organisation made up of more than 6,500 family lawyers and other professions and which promotes a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law.

Getting to an agreement through resolution still means you can come out of the process with the best outcome – in fact, it’s likely that you’ll not only end up with the right outcome (or better), but will also have less stress and lower costs.

And finally, be prepared. The costs associated with divorce vary and are unique to each individual case. Lawyers charge for their time, so part of controlling what you spend is making sure your solicitor isn’t spending their time doing things that you might have been able to do yourself.

Prepare for meetings and collate the information you need in advance so you not only have what you need when you meet, you can present it to your solicitor in a way that means they won’t need to waste time putting it into some sort of order.

In the end, divorce is never an enjoyable process for the people who go through it. But finding the right advice from the right solicitor will make it easier to bear.

Daniel Russell is the Managing Director of London-based Carlsons Solicitors, a well-established practice specialising in Divorce and Family Law, Dispute Resolution, Commercial & Residential Property matters, Settlement Agreements, Wills, Probate and Lasting Powers of Attorney.