Monday January 8 is dubbed “Divorce Day” because apparently family lawyers expect to see a spike in enquiries from people planning to end their marriages.
The media may use the term “Divorce Day” for headline grabbing attention, but it is true that the long festive period of enforced time together is often the final straw for couples who have been unhappy for some time. Google searches on the word “divorce” surge in January and leading relationship charity Relate reports that last January calls to their helpline increased by 24%. Their counsellors expect to see a similar increase this year.
Relate reckon that one in five people in the UK are in a “distressed relationship” and the charity urges couples whose relationships are in crisis to seek support as soon as possible.
Going through separation and divorce can be emotionally charged for everyone involved, but is a time when you need to take in and understand information in order to make the right choices and decisions for you and your family.
If you are planning on the first step towards separation and divorce in 2018, choosing the right family lawyer, and building a good working relationship, is critical.
My seven steps to finding the right divorce lawyer, and how to get the most from working with him or her, are designed to help you to make the right decisions for your personal circumstances.
1. Choose a specialist family lawyer. If you have assets such as a shared house, savings, pensions and/or have children together, then you will need someone who is experienced in dealing with the many aspects of separation and divorce. Search engines are useful research tools, but do ask family, friends, Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs), accountants, bank managers and other professionals you know and rate for their personal recommendations.
2. Consider whether you will need your lawyer to have additional specialist expertise, for example, if you run a family business or farm. Is there an international element to your particular circumstances – either in relation to children, or property and assets abroad?
3. Get the most out of the first meeting with your lawyer by thinking about, and writing down, the particular issues you want to discuss, and the questions you want to ask. Make a note of key dates and events during your marriage. It can be helpful to take a notebook with you to the meeting so you can refer back to your notes. You will be working with your lawyer for several months so from that first contact, or meeting, you need to have confidence in him or her. Is he or she someone you feel understands you, and your particular needs?
4. At some point your lawyer will need to see up to date financial information, so start compiling it as soon as possible. As a starting point you should provide up to date bank statements for all accounts in which you have an interest, tax returns, property valuations, details of pensions and any business accounts.
5. You can ask your lawyer for a draft agenda for meetings, as this will help you to stay focused and give you clarity about what the meeting will cover. At the end of a meeting, it is useful to recap what you have discussed and confirm with your lawyer the follow up actions for both of you. If you do not understand anything, including the next steps, then ask him or her to clarify.
6. Ensure that you receive a full and regular estimate of future costs as it important to keep on top of your legal fees. Discuss and agree any expenditure on your behalf, especially when expert evidence is required – for example for valuation of property or a business.
7. Try to ignore unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends and family about what you should be entitled to. Instead aim to remain reasonable and open-minded when you listen to the advice from your lawyer. You may not like what you hear, but he or she is obliged to advise you against the benchmark of what a court is likely to order.
Divorce is widely regarded as one of life’s most stressful experiences. Finding the right family lawyer for you, and having the correct information at your fingertips, can be empowering and help you to imagine a hopeful future for yourself and family.
If you have any questions about separation or divorce you can contact Nia directly on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone her on 01748 900 693. You can follow Nia on Twitter @nia_familylaw and Silk @silkfamilylaw
Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash