How to keep the cost of your divorce down with good legal advice

Aside from the emotional costs of separation and divorce, the financial costs can be significant. Taking immediate advice can put your mind at rest, as well as help to keep costs down, says Silk Family Law consultant Margaret Simpson.

The fear of legal costs can, on occasions, force people to remain in an unhappy or abusive relationship for longer than is necessary.

During the current cost of living crisis, this is happening even more frequently but taking immediate advice can put your mind at rest, and there are a few ways you can assist in keeping your legal costs down.

The guidance we would provide is to always firstly appoint a solicitor who is experienced in matrimonial finance, and this is where family law firms provide the best expertise. A specialist lawyer will be able to advise in a focused and cost-efficient manner and will give clear advice and a strategy for a way forward and progress.

Be aware that legal advice is provided on a time-spent basis and hourly rates are applied, which then attracts VAT at 20 percent.

There are, however, different levels of solicitors and other advisors – so take their advice as to whether you require a partner or senior associate to deal with all aspects of your case.

Often taking senior advice initially can be important, but then certain actions thereafter can often be entrusted to a less senior, but very able and efficient, member of the team. Many good law firms work in teams, thereby offering different levels of advisors for different aspects of the case. This enables work to be done at the correct level and minimise overall costs.

No-fault divorce and reaching a fair outcome

A good example is the impact over the last few years since the introduction of the no-fault divorce process. Now that there is no longer a need to demonstrate unreasonable behaviour or another reason for the breakdown of your marriage and so the divorce process can often be handled by a trainee or legal assistant. Their charging rates are less and the work they can conduct on your behalf should always be properly supervised. Blending the charging rates is a good way to keep costs under control.

In dealing with the financial repercussions of separation and divorce, it is vital that you make informed decisions. Accordingly, both parties must provide full particulars of their overall financial position, including property, capital, business assets, savings, investments, pensions and income. Once the financial disclosure process is complete, it is important to move forwards to consider an overall framework for settlement. A couple agreeing a fair settlement by negotiation, with the assistance of their solicitors, saves many potential hours of discussions and negotiation and inevitably rising costs.

If a couple is unable to agree how to address these issues, before embarking on the court process, it is important to consider alternative means of dispute resolution, including mediation and arbitration There are few winners in the contested court process, and while you may feel let down by your partner and devasted by the separation, advice from professionals will help you to secure a fair outcome.

Always be mindful of the costs of litigation, because there is only one ‘pot’ and the more that is spent on legal fees to finalise arrangements between you, the less there is available to share afterwards. 

Bear in mind that a negotiated outcome can be created and tailored to the needs of your case and those of your children. By contrast, the court system can be a very blunt instrument and sometimes at the end of a very long, bitter, stressful and expensive court battle, there is rarely an outright winner.

Get in touch

Margaret Simpson is a consultant at Silk Family Law and can be contacted on 01748 902610  or by email at [email protected]

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