The cuts in legal aid have seen a rise in couples divorcing without legal representation; more couples are trying to negotiate their own way through the court system as they attempt to agree settlements in relation to their finances and children.
This can mean couples and families facing longer periods of uncertainty, as their financial and children disputes are taking far longer to resolve. These delays can obviously have an adverse impact on the children of these families and couples themselves looking to resolve financial disputes quickly and fairly.
Getting the right legal advice can help guide you through the divorce process, even if it’s only an initial meeting with a solicitor or a one-off session with a mediator. Although there is a wealth of information you can access now on the internet and on-line chat forums, there can also be conflicting viewpoints and misinformation. Financial relief, in particular, is also an area dominated by judicial discretion which makes it hard to predict what financial settlement is the most appropriate. Searches and advice found on blogs are also rarely specific to the problem or issues you are facing and can cause more confusion than clarity.
A solicitor can give you advice on your rights, responsibilities and entitlements and explain the legal jargon to you. Solicitors can help you with the divorce forms and associated paperwork; put into effect an agreement you have reached independently with your ex-partner; negotiate on your behalf directly with your ex-partner’s solicitor, and through the courts if necessary; give you independent legal advice, either if you’re negotiating a settlement through mediation or at the start of your process if you’re involved in a do-it-yourself divorce.
A solicitor can give you information about your financial circumstances and options of which you would not otherwise be aware. There are a wide range of financial orders available; maintenance pending suit, secured periodical payments, property adjustment orders, deferred clean break orders, to name but a few. A solicitor can explain these and make sure you are negotiating the most appropriate settlement to your individual circumstances. Also if your ex-partner will not negotiate with you, using a solicitor might be more effective than trying to sort it out directly.
Financial security in your retirement years is becoming increasingly important with life expectancies on the rise and the retirement period sometimes being as high as 40 years. A pension may well be a person’s most valuable asset and should not be overlooked or sidelined when negotiating financial settlements. Whether pensions should be left alone, offset or shared on divorce, it is important to seek expert pension advice as part of the divorce process to ensure that you fully understand the consequences of the options available to you and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is the government body responsible for the calculation and collection of statutory child maintenance. However, the CMS may not always get involved or have jurisdiction. In cases where parties tend to be unmarried and are co-habiting, a parent or guardian can make a claim under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. These claims can involve orders to make periodical payments, to pay a lump sum or to make a settlement of property or to transfer property. Courts can also order ‘top-up’ orders in addition to CMS payments. Claims can also be made under Section 22 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
In addition to financial claims on behalf of children, solicitors can also help negotiate contact arrangements (often referred to as Child arrangements), especially where mediation or negotiation between the parents may not have reached an amicable outcome. The Children and Families Act 2014 made substantial changes to areas of private children law and public children law. Solicitors can, particularly in private children law matters, assist in negotiations which have broken down between the parents and who are considering going to court.
Paul Wild, our Head of Family Law, is a trained mediator and collaborative lawyer who places an emphasis on reducing conflict and working with clients and other solicitors to reach agreement on key issues, which in turn reduces tension and is cost effective. To benefit from Paul’s expertise and issue focused approach, you can book a fixed fee £95 consultation by clicking here.