1st February 2016

How to Find a Good Divorce Lawyer

With the papers full of the latest “celebrity” divorces and statistics showing that 42% of UK marriages end in divorce, it might be assumed that divorce is no longer a significant life event. However, the knowledge that thousands of other couples are going through the same thing, makes it no less difficult when your own marriage is breaking down.

For most people, divorce is not something they have been through before and they find themselves in unknown territory, needing to make arrangements for future finances and housing, as well as living and contact arrangements for any children. These decisions can have far reaching, sometimes life changing implications for all members of the family and would be difficult enough to take even at the best of times and with the support of a partner. Unfortunately, in a divorce, these decisions have to be taken at what is often the worst possible time, when emotions are high and relationships stretched, sometimes to breaking point and beyond.

So where can you go for advice and support? Family and friends are often the first port of call, but bear in mind that they won’t necessarily know all the relevant details or background and almost certainly will be unable to take an objective view. It is therefore understandable that, at some point, most people will seek advice from a lawyer. But how can you know who to go to and what to look for in a good divorce lawyer? There can never be a “one size fits all” approach, as just as every family is different, so too is every divorce. In some, the finances will be simple and straightforward, whilst others may involve complex overseas trusts. Some parents find it relatively easy to agree arrangements for children amicably, whilst others find it impossible.  Also individuals have different priorities and requirements, for example some needing more support and help in understanding finances than others.

However what does apply in all divorces is the need for anyone who engages the help of a lawyer to have confidence that the lawyer is not only an expert in the field, but that he or she also has strong contacts with other professionals whose advice and support may be needed, for example on a tax issue or as to the best way to help children understand the changes happening in their family. Cost is certainly an important factor, so do ask for details of hourly rates and for an initial estimate of the likely overall costs. Beware online services which offer a divorce at a very low, fixed rate. If it seems too good to be true then, as with most things, it probably is.

These services often cover just the cost of obtaining the divorce, with any advice or work in relation to finances or children being charged separately. Given that it is these issues which can result in significant costs, the very low sums quoted can turn out to be significantly lower than the final bill. Although it may seem obvious, convenience is also a factor to bear in mind. Choose someone who has an office which is local either to your home or place of work, or even to your child’s school. That way, not only will any meetings be less stressful and time consuming, but it will also be easier for you to drop off and collect any papers and even to arrange a meeting at short notice if an issue suddenly arises which concerns you. Find out about the approach any lawyer takes to his or her cases. Friends may be quick to point you in the direction of a “great” lawyer they have heard about, who is “a real Rottweiler and who completely destroys the opposition”. However whilst there are certainly some cases in which a very firm approach is needed, it is worth taking the time to consider what it is that you really wish to achieve. Divorce is not a game, and whilst in the heat of the moment, it might be really satisfying to score points at any cost, bear in mind that, however difficult it might be to imagine, there will be life after the divorce and the way in which you deal with it may have long term repercussions, both financial and emotional. Any goodwill which may have survived the initial breakup of the marriage is precious and you certainly do not need it to be destroyed by lawyers.

Talk to your lawyer about the various options open to you for resolving issues, such as mediation or collaborative law and be wary if these are dismissed out of hand, as they can offer not only cost effective, but also emotionally far less damaging alternatives to court proceedings. Most importantly, you need a good family lawyer in whom you can have complete confidence and trust. Going through divorce is rarely an easy time and you will need someone to advise you and guide you through it. The best way to find out whether a lawyer is right for you is to meet them, so arrange a short, initial meeting at which you can discuss the issues which matter to you and decide on the best way forward.

Melanie den Brinker

Melanie den Brinker