Google key words around the area of divorce and you will unleash a tsunami of promises based on either extraordinarily low level priced “fixed fee divorces”, so-called “quickie divorces” and the alternative “non-legal divorce solutions”. Some of them seem to be claiming to be able to divorce you for little more than a round of drinks in your local pub! The one great unifying message from many of these entities is that they view solicitors as the common enemy! What is it they say? There are two main themes:
1. Lawyers are costly.
Yes, we are very aware people would much rather spend money on holidays, cars and things that they want. Paying for law is often a grudge purchase but the benefits from using a good quality solicitor are more than worth it… we’ll get onto that in a bit!
2. Lawyers make matters more complicated.
Sigh! The usual line put out by many Divorce “Consultants” is that with a little bit of their help (surprise, surprise) or even if you get together with your partner over half a lager, it will be so simple to agree things between yourselves and not involve any other third parties… particularly Solicitors.
There are any number of online websites aimed at assisting people with their divorces and separations. There are sites that aim to console, comfort and help people manage their emotions when going through separation. Yes, of course those are important areas but those websites can only do so much! The core activity remains in solicitors hands, in negotiating a binding, reliable result, a fair and just outcome and one that ensures that both parties are on a level playing field. Family solicitors are trained to do this and do it well.
What we see on an all too regular basis is the result of the activities of some of those online sites which are run obviously also to make money but which, either intentionally or unintentionally, mislead potential clients via a variety of “fluffy & cuddly” but empty promises. They persuade those in need that they can provide everything they want to resolve their dispute and to manage their trauma but in reality, such sites can achieve very little, prolong the pain and leave a person still needing (sometimes up to a year later) to return to a Lawyer to bring about a final satisfactory result.
We won’t go into huge detail on the “quickie divorce” claims. At the end of the day, even in an uncontested divorce, you move at the rate of the slowest party involved and the statutory controls in terms of processing the paperwork.
The purpose of family solicitors is not to increase parties’ aggravation and run up costs. Solicitors are there to ensure a fair deal for both parties. Mediation is always a consideration. However, in any number of separations, one party is stronger than the other and can be a bully. One party can hide or dispose of assets and not be honest in financial disclosure. This is a vital area for your life, after divorce, when you are moving on. There are so many factors that Lawyers and the Courts have to take into account which means, often, that the 50/50 split is often not appropriate. For example, we can include the difference in earning capacities, whether there are children, the ages of the parties, the fact that children need to be housed first and the inclusion of all the assets in the marriage to include pensions, companies, investments, etc. Also, family solicitors deal with parties who separate who have never been married but have simply lived together. If anything, the law is more complicated in this situation because there is no such thing as a common law husband or wife.
Alongside Divorce, solicitors also deal with prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements, pre-cohabitation agreements, post-cohabitation agreements and with all matters relating to child law. They deal with international cases and complicated hidden asset cases.
It takes a considerable amount of time to qualify to become a family law solicitor. It is highly regulated and standards are strict. You or I could set up as a “divorce consultant” tomorrow. There are no rules or regulations. At the end of the day it is up to you who you trust your future to but we would advise that you read the small print VERY closely and remember the old adage: If it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t!
Elizabeth Leah – rhw solicitors llp