By Margaret Simpson, Partner


Relationship breakdown is often complex and is usually emotionally charged. Yet, it is also a time when you are required to assimilate a great deal of information and make important decisions with far reaching implications for the future.


Instructing the right lawyer to deal with the particular circumstances of your case is a vital first step.  You should carry out thorough research and, if possible, instruct somebody who has been personally recommended to you.  It is likely that you and your lawyer will be working together for many months and confidence in your lawyer is vital.


Quality advice can be costly and therefore, an orderly approach to taking legal advice upon separation or divorce will assist you in working alongside your lawyer to secure the best outcome in the most cost efficient manner.


Being orderly when your life may have been turned upside down is not always easy and the following simple guidelines may help:-


  • Ensure that all of your financial information is up-to-date and in proper order.  Have to hand all statements relating to the bank accounts in which you have an interest, tax returns, property valuations, business accounts and, where necessary, management accounts.


  • Prepare a detailed chronology of the key dates and events during the marriage or the relationship, particularly where these events have financial consequences.


  • Prepare fully for your meetings.  Take with you a clear note of what it is you wish to discuss with your lawyer. Understand fully the purpose of the meeting and, where appropriate, ask your lawyer for a draft agenda in advance.


  • At the end of your meeting ensure that there is a clear understanding of the actions your lawyer will be taking on your behalf and what actions are required of you.  You should understand fully the next steps in your case and the timescales involved.


  • If necessary, ask for a note of the meeting including the agreed course of action.


  • Read all communications carefully.  Deal promptly with requests for information.   Do not wait for your solicitor to chase you.  This may cause delay and is likely to increase costs.


  • Ensure that you receive full and regular estimates of fees for each stage of your case.  Make sure that no expert evidence is obtained on your behalf without the costs of such evidence being agreed with you beforehand.


  • Listen to advice.  Be reasonable and remain open minded.  The advice being given to you by your lawyer may not always be what you want to hear.  Your lawyer must advise you against the benchmark of what a court is likely to order.  However hurtful, the actions of a former partner, when it comes down to arrangements for the children or negotiating a financial settlement, a clear head and pragmatism are required.  Think carefully about what really matters to you.  Relay that information to your lawyer and ensure that the best possible outcome for you is secured in a realistic and a cost efficient manner.

This blog first appeared as Margaret’s monthly column in the Yorkshire Post’s Country Week .

Margaret has significant expertise in all aspects of separation and divorce, including complex financial matters, as well as farming and landowning cases.  You can contact her on 01748 900 888 or visit  You can follow Silk Family Law on Twitter @Silkfamilylaw