Engaging the services of a divorce lawyer can be daunting.
You can take all the advice in the world off friends and family, look for recommendations and do your background research, but you have to make a decision at some point and you need to make sure that the two of you gel and work effectively together to have the best chance of getting the outcome you want.
You don’t need to leave this element to chance though and by following a few simple rules and asking a few relevant questions at the outset, you have a much higher chance of working successfully with your family law specialist.
Don’t be afraid to ask
The law is renowned for its jargon and it is very difficult for trained specialists to realise those terms that are common knowledge and those that need further explanation. In short, if you don’t understand ask.
If you are discussing matters with a lawyer for the first time and they are using a lot of jargon which leaves you floundering, perhaps they are not the right fit for you.
If there are just a few terms for which you could do with extra explanation, ask and see how they respond. If they are able to go back and make the point clearly and try and cut out jargon after that, it is likely to put you more at ease, which is exactly what you need. It will also be some measure of their experience and knowledge of family law.
Pricing is also something which can cause people to feel uncomfortable, so ask how you will be charged, how much everything will cost and whether things can be done for a fixed price.
Fixed fees are increasingly popular as they can provide complete transparency, allowing you to budget for the costs involved. Ask exactly what is included and if there will be a final bill or will the invoices come at key milestones. Remember, divorce is the legal ending of marriage.
It does not include time spent settling financial affairs or reaching agreement where your children will live.
Expert advice on these areas is likely to fall outside any fixed fee for the divorce itself. Clarity on what you are going to pay will help you work with your solicitor as you are not worried about what it is going to cost or whether that extra phone call or letter is going to push you over budget.
For a successful working relationship with your divorce solicitor, you will need to be completely frank with them from the start and clear about what you want to achieve: what is most important to you? Stick to this and be aware that if you change your instruction halfway through the process this could incur additional work and additional costs for you.
You will need to supply all relevant information when it is asked for, so it is worth getting your affairs in order in advance so you have the right documentation. If you are trying to reach a financial agreement with your partner, for example, there will be a process called financial disclosure, in which you’ll need to supply bank statements and other financial records.
Use your lawyer for their legal expertise
Use your lawyer for the things they are good at, and nothing else if you can help it.
This may seem obvious but, so often, because of the level of discussion needed on certain subjects surrounding a divorce, it is easy to slip into discussing bigger issues. A certain amount of this is inevitable but you are paying a lawyer for their legal knowledge.
They might not be the best person from whom to seek personal advice or emotional support. Family, friends or professional counsellors can help you through the emotional turmoil.
You need to trust your solicitor to do their job. Trust is one of the key ingredients to a successful working relationship. This is helped enormously if you are realistic about the outcomes of the process and the time it will take. Your lawyer can be (and should be) clear on this.
If you “want to take them to the cleaners”, your lawyer should advise that this is not the right approach and is unlikely to lead to a good outcome for anyone. They can advise on what is reasonable to expect and what is not.
In terms of timescales, it will take some months but by arranging a weekly or fortnightly phone or email catch up, you can be sure to have the latest information and an update on where things are without sitting at home worrying about what is happening.
Above all, you need to keep in mind that a good, experienced family law specialist is there to help and wants you to have the best outcome possible. Choosing carefully and ensuring you work well together will help everything run as smoothly as possible.
About Andrew Woolley
Article written by Andrew Woolley of Woolley & Co, Solicitors. Woolley & Co is a firm of family law specialists with a team of 22 divorce and family lawyers operating throughout England and Wales. We offer a free initial telephone appointment to discuss the legal issues you face and explain how we can help.
Call Woolley & Co. on 0800 321 3832
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