Do i need a divorce solicitor UK
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Divorce Solicitor UK – Everything You Need To Know

Getting divorced is a big step into the unknown for most people. One question that will be at the top of the question pile is whether to get a divorce solicitor. In this article, I share my experience with UK divorce solicitors.

Do you have to have a solicitor to get a divorce in the UK?

No, you do not need to have a solicitor to get divorced in the UK. If your divorce is amicable and there are no real complications, then you could probably get away without taking on a solicitor. But, I think it is probably a good idea to have a solicitor who you can run things past and make sure you’re doing things the correct way. 

If you and your partner are at war and out to screw each other over as much as possible, then you will need a solicitor. You can try using mediation to reach an agreement, but as I found, mediation requires give and take from both sides and if neither of you is willing to back down, then mediation won’t work.

If mediation doesn’t work, then solicitor negotiations are usually the next step. This involves solicitors sending letters back and forth until an agreement is reached. If an agreement can’t be reached, then it’s off to court……..which you really want to avoid.

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If my partner has a divorce solicitor, do I need to get a solicitor?

No, you can do everything yourself, but it is probably not a good idea.

When you start getting letters from your partner’s divorce solicitor, it can be quite daunting at first. I found the solicitor letters quite threatening, but this is something you get used to after a while. The letters my solicitor wrote to my ex-wife were also quite threatening, it just seems to be how divorce solicitors operate.

How do I find a good divorce solicitor

  1. Probably the best way to find a good divorce solicitor is to speak to friends and colleagues who have been through divorce. Unfortunately for me, everyone I spoke to only had bad experiences with divorce solicitors.

  2. Do some online research using tools like Google Reviews.

  3. I think it is a good idea to select a solicitor that is local to you. This can be useful for face-to-face meetings, dropping in paperwork etc.

  4. I went with a small local solicitor as I felt they would care more about their clients than a large solicitor firm.

  5. I think experience is also very important in divorce, so find out how many years of experience the solicitor you go with has had.

  6. It’s common practice in the UK for divorce solicitors to have a free, no-commitment 30-minute meeting to discuss all things divorce. This is a good opportunity to see if the solicitor is right for you.
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Take advantage of the free initial meeting

As I mentioned above, many solicitors offer a free initial meeting to discuss your divorce. Take advantage of this and write down questions beforehand. 

I was a bit cheeky and went to 3 different divorce solicitors’ initial free meetings to get as much info as possible without paying. 

What questions should I ask a solicitor about divorce

Before you have an initial meeting with a divorce solicitor, it is a good idea to write down all the questions you have.

Below are some of the more general types of questions that I asked my divorce solicitor.

  1. How is your time charged?
  2. How long have you been a divorce solicitor?
  3. Will you be the only person working on my divorce?
  4. How can mediation be used as part of the divorce process?
  5. What information do you need from me? documents, forms etc
  6. What are the next steps?
  7. Is there anything I should do or should not do?

There is no point in asking the divorce solicitor about timescales and potential outcomes. There is no way of knowing the answers to these sorts of questions.

My divorce was expected to take up to 8 months, but it went through a lot of unexpected twists and turns and took nearly two years.

How much does a divorce solicitor cost in the UK

The cost of a divorce solicitor is going to vary considerably, depending on circumstances.

For my divorce, the divorce solicitor fees came to about £6000. My ex-wife’s solicitor fees were considerably more. She never told me the amount she ended up paying, only that it was more than £6000.

Most divorce solicitors charge an hourly rate.

TIP – The hourly rate advertised by divorce solicitors, usually doesn’t include VAT

Keep an eye on costs

My divorce solicitor would just randomly send me invoices. Sometimes, they were for a relatively small amount and other times, they hurt.

The last thing you want when going through a divorce is unexpected bills

– Threshold

I suggest that you agree with your solicitor on how you are billed. I think the best option is that when costs reach a certain amount, your solicitor bills you or at least lets you know that you have reached the threshold.

– Breakdown of costs

My invoices had very little information on them showing where all the costs had gone. The invoices often just showed the number of hours with no detail. I don’t think this is acceptable when spending significant amounts of money. I got my solicitor to add some detail against the hours he worked, e.g. writing letter, 30-minute meeting, responding to emails etc.

– Deposit

I had to pay an initial £500 deposit to my solicitor and I believe my ex-wife had to pay £1000 deposit. Bear this in mind when instructing a solicitor.

– Fixed Cost

When I was looking around for a solicitor, I saw several firms offering a fixed-rate fee. As tempting as it is, I think that fixed fee is probably a false economy. From what I saw you are basically paying for someone to carry administration tasks for you.

In the terms and conditions of one firm, it said you would not have direct access to a qualified divorce solicitor, even though they were advertising themselves as divorce solicitors!

Divorce isn’t as complicated as divorce solicitors make out

Having been through the divorce process, I found it a lot less complicated than I was expecting. Divorce solicitors give the impression that divorce is a complex legal minefield full of paperwork and divorce laws.

Note: Fortunately, I didn’t end up going to court, so I have no experience with how complex this would be. 

Ultimately, divorce is about agreeing with your partner on who gets what.

There are no rules or laws that you have to follow to come to an agreement. You could, for example, agree on a ’95 / 5′ split on all assets, where your partner has 95% of everything and you have 5% or drill down more, so maybe 70 \ 30 split on the property, 50 / 50 split on savings and you each keep your own pensions.

I found the actual paperwork involved in a divorce is not as much as I expected and not particularly complicated.

If I were to go through a divorce again, I’d probably use a solicitor a lot less than I did. I’d simply use the solicitor to advise, guide, and help with paperwork.

Divorce solicitors are slow

If you’re looking for a ‘quickie divorce’ then do not get solicitors involved. Both my solicitor and my ex-wife’s solicitor were incredibly slow.

Useful responses to my emails, on average, took a week and I nearly always had to send chasing emails. 

The problem is unless you are paying a lot of money, your divorce solicitor will have many other clients all wanting his \ her time.

On a number of occasions, my solicitor would drop off the grid for several weeks at a time. I would just get responses from his secretary. I found out this was usually because he had a high-priority case that involved children and going to court.

The busiest time of year for divorce solicitors is at the beginning of the year when typically most couples in the UK get divorced.

Agree on dates

It is a good idea to agree with your solicitor on dates for things to be completed. If you don’t agree on dates, then there is no target to aim for, which means things will progress much more slowly.

Also, whenever corresponding with your partner or their solicitor, give dates to work towards as well. 

Divorce solicitors make mistakes

The amount you’re paying your solicitor, you don’t expect them to make mistakes, but they do. 

The solicitor I used knew his stuff about divorce law and as far as I’m aware, he never made mistakes in this area. But, he made schoolboy mistakes, such as getting my ex-wife’s name wrong in a letter, getting dates wrong and messing up basic maths. 

Make sure you review any letters \ emails before they are sent.

Keep pushing forward

As mentioned earlier, divorce solicitors are busy working for many clients. Unless you keep pushing them, you will be at the bottom of the pile, and things will move very slowly. 

When you send an email and don’t hear anything within a couple of days, send a chasing email. If you don’t hear anything after 3 working days, send another chasing email and, this time CC one of the partners or someone in a senior position.

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Data privacy

As part of the divorce process, a lot of your personal information has to be shared between solicitors and your partner.

For example, full financial disclosure is one of the first things that divorce solicitors require from each party. This means sharing the last 12 months of all your finances, bank statements, pension value, investments, pay slips etc. Stuff that I think most people would say is highly confidential. 

My solicitor and ex-wife’s solicitor were perfectly happy to send this financial information via email with no encryption or password protection. This is exactly how criminals get information to commit crimes like identity theft. 

My recommendation is that if you send anything confidential by email to your divorce solicitor, send it as an encrypted \ password protected attachment. Also, speak to your solicitor and tell them to do the same.

Make suggestions

I found that my solicitor was not very good at thinking outside of the box. He had a well-trodden path that he used for all his divorce cases. But, as previously mentioned, divorce cases are not all the same and few laws govern the outcome.

Initially, when I was discussing how to approach my divorce, I assumed what my solicitor was saying was the way things had to be done. I eventually realised what he was saying was more of a ‘safe’ suggestion. 

If you have any ideas or thoughts, run them past your solicitor. They will immediately shoot down some things, but other things may stick and form part of your divorce agreement.

Solicitors tell you what you want to hear

Understandably, divorce solicitors are always confident that they will achieve the best outcome for you. The best outcome in divorce is usually not a good outcome!

Tactics of divorce solicitors

From my experience, divorce solicitors go in hard and then negotiate their way to an agreement. This is great for the solicitors, as it prolongs the divorce process and they can keep charging throughout the negotiation process. Obviously, it is not so good for you due to the additional cost and time it takes.

If you are on talking terms with your partner, try and come to a rough agreement with them outside of the solicitors. Once you agree on what you can, go back to the solicitors to make it official. 

It is very beneficial to you and your partner to agree on as much as you can outside of the solicitors. If you are not on talking terms, then send emails. Ensure the emails are purely about divorce negotiations; don’t be tempted to get emotional and start attacking your partner. 

My ex-wife was very reluctant to communicate using email. I think she was worried that she would potentially say things that could be used against her at a later date. To get around this, we would print communications.

Do I have to do everything through my divorce solicitor 

No, you can use your divorce solicitor simply as an advisor, or you can get them to do everything. It really depends on your situation, how confident you feel and how much money you are willing \ able to spend.

Divorce is every day for your solicitor

Divorce is a once in a lifetime event for most people. But, for your solicitor, it is literally their day job. You are just another divorce case for them.

The outcome of the divorce has no long-lasting impact on the solicitor. For you, it will be life-changing. Bear this in mind when discussing and making decisions with your solicitor. 

Conclusion: Divorce Solicitors – Everything You Need To Know

Unfortunately, for many UK divorces, solicitors are a necessary evil. How much you use a divorce solicitor will depend on how complex your situation is and how confident you feel about doing things yourself.

 

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