One of the main practical concerns raised by the divorce clients we meet at Frances Lindsay & Co is the cost. Finances form a major part of the separation process in terms of dividing assets and negotiating settlements, and it makes sense to try to keep costs down where you can. This is sometimes easier said than done, however, especially when a case becomes complicated and protracted, but there are a few preparations and precautions you can take to try to avoid shelling out above and beyond what is necessary.
Find the right solicitor and the right method of separation:
A good solicitor makes the whole process of separation much easier to understand and cope with. The type of solicitor you choose will depend on your situation, and should provide you with objective and practical advice on how to proceed with your case in the most effective way. For cases involving children, a Resolution-trained mediator or member of the Institute of Family Law may be the best choice; if you want to avoid going to court and settle financial issues quickly, an arbitrator might work for you; or if you need an experienced solicitor to help you through a complicated court case, look for a lawyer accredited by the Law Society. The method of dispute resolution you choose will greatly affect the cost – out-of-court alternatives such as mediation, collaborative family law and arbitration are usually much quicker and more straightforward than a court divorce, avoiding costly fees and an extended process.
Choose fixed-fee legal services:
The cost of divorce can sky-rocket if you don’t plan realistically for the amount of legal support you are likely to need. By choosing a solicitor who offers fixed-fee services you can set down exact costs for each stage of the process and budget accordingly. If you’re too preoccupied by your solicitor’s hourly rate during a meeting, you won’t be able to concentrate on the details of your case!
Keep it simple:
If you can, try to set out the terms of your separation with your ex before you pursue separation. By keeping lines of communication open and remaining as amicable as possible, you will give yourself the best chance of a fast and inexpensive divorce. Generally, the simpler your situation, the cheaper separation will be. Of course, sometimes this just isn’t possible: cases can become complicated, issues relating to children can be difficult to resolve, and emotions can run high. In situations like these it’s imperative to make good use of the guidance and expertise of your solicitor to help you negotiate complex disputes and find a solution that works for everyone.
Create a realistic budget:
As well as budgeting for the cost of your separation, it’s also very useful to plan ahead for life after divorce – there may be new expenses to pay, changes to mortgage and insurance payments, or a loss of savings. If you have children, you will need to take into account child support payments, and all the extra things you’ll need in order to split co-parenting between two homes, for example: furniture, toys, and clothes. We recently wrote a guide for creating a post-divorce budget that contains helpful tips on planning ahead.
Put aside your pride:
The psychological effects of divorce can turn what should be a practical resolution into a battle of wills – bitterness, anger, and grief all compound the process, making it more complicated, time-consuming and ultimately more expensive. You may resent having to pay money to your ex when you feel they don’t deserve it, or you might hate the feeling of having to accept hand-outs when all you want is to be free of the relationship. Use your solicitor’s expert advice, try to put aside your hurt feelings, and look at the situation objectively. Don’t be too proud to accept help if you need it, or too resentful to agree to a fair settlement.
Don’t make snap decisions:
While most people want the process of separation to be over as quickly as possible, it’s never a good idea to rush through decisions or blithely sign whatever terms are put in front of you just to be rid of the situation. Divorce is a grieving process and it can take time to get your head back into an objective space. During the process, use the guidance of your lawyer as much as possible to make the best choices for the future. And afterwards, try to avoid making major financial decisions for at least six to twelve months – it takes time to adjust to your new situation and you may regret any snap judgemtents you make while you’re still moving past the loss of your old life.
A good solicitor will aim to be as fair as possible, while of course looking after the interests of their client. It helps to take the same approach yourself, no matter how angry you are at your ex. A 50/50 division of assets isn’t always possible, but it can be a good starting point to finding a positive solution. Try to keep emotions out of financial decisions and approach them with a practical head; you don’t need to agree to one-sided agreements because you feel guilty, or feel that you have to continue to look after your ex because that’s what you’ve always done. Equally, there’s no point trying to punish your spouse for past offenses by drawing out the divorce process and being intentionally difficult. A successful separation should enable you both to move on with minimal regrets and resentment.
For more advice on fixed-fee legal services, divorce, and alternative methods of dispute resolution, visit our blog at Frances Lindsay & Co, or get in touch to speak with one of our expert family law solicitors.
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