How to Instruct a Solicitor in Your Divorce
When a relationship breaks down it is an emotionally testing time. It is difficult to deal with and it is important that you are able to look to your divorce solicitor for help and support in sorting out the financial and legal issues. Recognise that instructing a divorce lawyer is a big step, probably the first thing you do to formally end your relationship. Selecting your divorce solicitor is one of the most important decisions that you will make in your divorce case. You should try to find a lawyer who is experienced in family law and divorce cases. Look for someone who is responsive and willing to communicate with you throughout the divorce process. Ask you friends and family for recommendations, but in the end it is your decision.
Ensure you feel comfortable with the divorce solicitor you propose to instruct. Does the family lawyer’s personality compliment your own? This factor is often overlooked. You will be discussing personal details of your private life and form a close working relationship. Make sure your solicitor has the time to deal with your case, is not leaving for pastures new within the next 6 months and works exclusively in family law. Having a change of solicitor forced upon you can cause additional stress!
You may be emotional and it is useful to make a checklist of questions. You will be looking to the divorce lawyer to give you specific advice on your case but it can help you to feel more in control of your situation if you have a basic understanding of the process. If you compare it to buying a house, knowing about the stages involved, exchange of contracts and completion and the implications of being in a chain helps. That does not mean that you need sufficient knowledge to carry out your own conveyancing!
Realise that obtaining a divorce is a separate legal procedure to sorting out the matrimonial finances. Some people divorce without finalising the finances and regret it years later when their ex-spouse makes a claim.
All aspects of the end of your relationship should be discussed, such as finances, if there are children, who they should live with and how often they should see their other parent, any issues relating to personal safety, wills, change of name, inheritance and your future plans.
Questions for your Divorce Solicitor
- Do you specialise in Family Law?
Compare it to visiting your GP. If you need surgery you require a specialist. Equally, some solicitors are generalists, dealing with civil litigation, conveyancing, personal injury etc. This is not the type of lawyer you want handling your case. Ask what percentage of their work is family law.
- How will I be charged?
Is it possible to have a fixed fee arrangement? Most solicitors charge on an hourly rate. Make sure you understand what the rate is and how you will be charged.
- What other costs are involved?
These are known as disbursements and can include court fees, expert’s fees, swear fees and the cost of obtaining copy documents, such as, a marriage certificate.
- How can I keep my costs down?
Your solicitor should advise you on the specifics relevant to your case but examples are gathering together your financial information at an early stage, keeping a diary of your spouse’s behaviour or contacting your accountant yourself.
- Who else will be working on my case?
Will the work be delegated, and if so to whom? You need to be sure that whoever works on your case is sufficiently experienced. Will the work be charged at a lower rate? How busy is your solicitor? Will your calls be answered by the solicitor in a timely manner? Workloads change and some people are less organised or attentive than others. Raising these questions at the start puts you in a stronger position if you have a problem later.
- What efforts will you make to try to settle my case?
Will your divorce solicitor take the initiative or wait for the other side? Most cases settle and you want yours to do so as soon as possible. Will your solicitor simply prepare the matter for trial? You want a solicitor who is prepared to communicate with your spouse’s solicitor to try to settle the case on terms that are fair to you.