Consulting a divorce lawyer

Choosing a divorce lawyer is one of the most important aspects of getting a divorce. Your divorce lawyer is not simply required to reach a financial settlement but to do so in relation to emotionally sensitive issues. This is especially important when children are involved.

To help you pick the right divorce lawyer and give you an idea of what to expect from their service, TakeLegalAdvice.com has asked a panel of divorce lawyers what advice they can offer.

What to look for in a divorce lawyer

All of those interviewed emphasised the importance of working with a divorce Lawyer you can feel confident in. They must also be supportive in the advice they give. This relationship is important, says divorce lawyer Naim Qureshi (right), a partner at law firm Child & Child, as the "work involves sharing personal information - so your divorce lawyer needs to be someone you like and get on with."

Finding a divorce expert is also critical and can be done by checking out what organisations your divorce lawyer is a member of. The divorce lawyer association, Resolution, is one such organisation.

Chloe Burrows (left) of divorce lawyers Dawsons LLP says members are likely to be “more conciliatory and less litigious”. Such a divorce lawyer will help deal with cases proactively and constructively with Burrows warning that “rushing off to court isn’t necessarily the best option.”

Working with an experienced divorce lawyer is important, particularly, Burrows suggests, if your case has specific requirements. Check their website to see how user-friendly they firm seems to be, Qureshi suggests.

Many firms offer free half-hour consultations which can be helpful for finding out all you need to know about a divorce lawyer. But don't use a divorce lawyer¹s hourly rate solely as a means for comparing cost, says Qureshi. He points out that prices between different law firms can vary dramatically but says such considerations must be balanced against the divorce lawyer’s experience. One divorce lawyer may charge a lower rate than another but if they are inexperienced it will take them longer to do the job meaning that there may be no cost saving, he says.

How you can help your divorce lawyer with your case

Divorce lawyer Sarah White (right), of Dawsons, emphasises the importance of consulting a divorce lawyer as possible to help your case get moving quickly. She also suggests that providing your divorce lawyer with the background to the situation before your first meeting can help get the wheels in motion faster. Divorce lawyer Rachael Smethurst (left), of Henmans LLP, agrees. She says that a divorce lawyer will appreciate details such as “history on how you have built up your assets over the course of the relationship, information on these assets, how much they are worth and people¹s income details and liabilities”.

Naim Qureshi suggests collating the documents that your divorce lawyer will require to demonstrate these figures, such as bank statements and pay slips.

In advance of appointments with your divorce lawyer, Smethurst also suggests preparing questions in advance to help make the most of your meeting time. She also suggests consulting the Resolution website before the first consultation with your divorce lawyer.

What your divorce lawyer should be able to tell you

All the divorce lawyers interviewed emphasised that it is hard to give a precise prediction of the cost, duration and likely outcome of your case. Equally, however, they insist that your divorce lawyer should set out a range of possible scenarios and how much they should cost.

Obviously the longer you retain your divorce lawyer the more it will cost and Naim Qureshi says “there is a huge range of possibilities with a time scale that can vary from months to years.”

Rachael Smethurst explains that if you are instructing a divorce lawyer simply to formalise an arrangement you have already agreed upon with your partner then it will not take much time or expense. If you require a divorce lawyer for litigation, on the other hand, then it will take longer and cost more.

At a preliminary meeting your divorce solicitor will not be able to predict factors which influence cost, such as whether your case will be acrimonious or whether it will be settled. This is also before other measures that can keep costs down, such as mediation and collaborative law, have been considered.

To get a better idea of how much your divorce lawyer will cost, Smethurst advises that you get a breakdown of your divorce lawyer¹s hourly rate into units. A unit is often 6 minutes so you can, for instance, get an idea of the cost of a short phone call. Often you will also be able to get the unit price for an email or letter as well.

How to pay for your divorce lawyer

Qureshi says that the traditional way to pay your divorce lawyer is by a retainer at the outset and then further sums when the present ones have been exhausted. Divorce lawyers will sometimes defer payment until a settlement is reached but he warns that this is less likely in the current climate.

In terms of funding there are less options available for paying for a divorce lawyer than for a personal injury lawyer or employment solicitor for instance. Chloe Burrows warns that not everyone is eligible for Legal Aid, and not all practitioners accept legally aided clients.

If you cannot pay for your divorce lawyer straight away, for instance if your money is tied up in assets, then a litigation loan can sometimes be obtained from a bank.

Click here to read 'Divorce advice: the alternatives to court proceedings

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