Solicitors, do’s and don’ts
However long your divorce goes on for, and however many of these letters you receive, it’ll never be a pleasant experience and your body will always let you know in one way or another that it’s not pleased to see them.
You’ll need to accept that now, and find a way to deal with these letters, as they won’t go away.
Firstly, decide when you’ll read them. Just before you collect the children from school is not a good time; they’ve got enough to deal with themselves without seeing you even more upset.
These letters may be important, but they’re rarely urgent, so make a rule for yourself that you’ll only open them at a time to suit you, eg after the children have gone to school or bed, and when you can get some support if you need it.
If you can discipline yourself to do this, it will also help you to feel more in control. Divorce does tend to take over your life, but you don’t need to allow your ex or their solicitor to control you.
At your chosen time, take a deep breath before reading the letter. Then get yourself a cup of tea, pen and paper and rewrite the letter so that a ten year old could understand it. (But please not ever, ever your ten year old: do all you can to keep this away from your children.)
It looks like a legal letter but how many legal issues does it really contain? Re-write, in your own words each:
- Factual statement (whether true or not)
- Statement of the law
- Question you’re being asked
- Thing you’re being asked to do
This will help you to be clear about the contents of the letter and any parts you do not fully understand.
It will also help you to work out whether or not the letter really needs a reply and, if so, how urgently. It may say the writer wants you to reply in 7 days, but what will happen if you don’t?
Be clear, not frightened.
Even if some of the facts stated are not true, does it really matter? And if they are true, but unpalatable, are they actually relevant to the issues which have to be resolved? Ignore as much as you can! Think each thing through properly before you send off a lengthy reply in anger, frustration or anxiety which is not going to move things forward constructively.
If you’re being asked to take the letter to a solicitor of your own, are you clear for what purpose? What can a solicitor say in reply that you can’t say yourself? What is the urgency? Keep questioning the voices of authority!
If you’re being told that your spouse wants to issue a divorce petition you don’t need a solicitor to receive it for you, your letter box is just as good as theirs.
If solicitors are going to issue a petition based on your unreasonable behaviour, ask them to send you a copy before it goes to the court so that you can agree the contents with them and avoid unnecessary costs.
If the letter is written in legal gobbledygook, or you need some help, give me a call.
I offer a free 20 minute call so have your questions clearly written out in front of you so that you can get the most from that time.
You’re right to be frightened.
I’ve heard more than one solicitor say they couldn’t afford their own fees if they were to divorce. In 2012 the average cost of a divorce was said to be £40,000 – for each partner.
If you can agree as much as possible between you, maybe through mediation, and just use solicitors for essential advice and to draw up your financial consent order, you should be able to divorce for between £1,500 and £5,000. You can make further savings by doing the divorce proceedings yourself. Legal aid is still available for mediation, for those who qualify, but not for legal advice from solicitors.
Usually, the longer you can put off going to a solicitor, the less it will cost you, unless you’re just ignoring the whole problem and hoping it will go away. It won’t, and you could have to pay your spouse’s costs if you’re frustrating the process.
If it’s a financial settlement you’re dealing with, I normally suggest waiting until you have both completed your Form Es, because a solicitor will not be able to give you much useful advice before then.
However, if your financial situation is complex, you may be well advised to seek financial or legal advice sooner rather than later, to see if there are tax or other implications.
If either or both of you have pensions, at least some legal or financial advice is essential.
If you’re not able to agree about arrangements for your children, or your financial arrangements, and have to go to court, you need to have a plan for paying your legal fees which could easily reach £20,000 – £40,000 or more.
I can help you plan and budget for your divorce and give you the information you need to fill in divorce and financial forms yourself so that you can afford to get the advice you’ll need further down the line.
If you’re reading this, you probably haven’t got the best solicitor for you. Clients often say “I’ve never done this before so how am I to know?” but in my experience they usually do know, though unfortunately often far too late.
I offer a free 20 minute call and can usually tell you in that time whether it’s best for you to stay where you are, or to change solicitor.
This is normal.
The law is complicated and even if you’re tempted to take it up as a career, now is not a good time, you’re far too emotional!
Two heads are better than one so if you can, take someone (with a notepad and pen) with you to any solicitor’s appointment.
Don’t be afraid to keep asking your solicitor to explain again. They won’t think you’re stupid, and it’s important that you understand what’s happening. Your solicitor is there to advise you and you need to be able to make an informed choice as to whether you take that advice, or need to question it.
If you can’t afford to keep asking your solicitor to explain, I can demystify it all for you at a fraction of the cost – and your first 20 minutes with me are free.
You may need a new solicitor and I can advise you as to whether and when you will, or whether a directly instructed barrister might be better.
A lot of what you need is legal information and procedure and it may be that I can work with you, or give you occasional guidance for a while to reduce your costs prior to helping you find a new solicitor or barrister if you need one.
There’s a lot of information on the internet and if you have the time, you can do a great deal by yourself.
I can give you as much or as little help as you want to guide you through the process. I will help you with form filling and letter writing, and advise you if and when you need legal and/or financial advice.
Some solicitors will give you advice just ‘as and when’ you need it, rather than going on the court record and doing it all for you.
To arrange a free, confidential, 20 minute chat about how I might be able to help you, please email me or call 01932 843434