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Divorce and family law explained 

It pays to negotiate in a divorce

Going to a divorce solicitor does not necessarily mean going to Court. Many of our clients don’t actually attend Court at all. But it takes two to agree a financial settlement and sometimes there is no alternative. Generally, though, it pays to negotiate. The costs of a case which goes to Court nearly always vastly exceed the costs of a sensible settlement and that ignores the emotional costs too.

No doubt partly due to this concern “How much will it cost?” and “How long will it take?”, are surely the questions most frequently heard by lawyers involved in divorce proceedings and, frustratingly for lawyers and clients alike, the answer is uncertain mainly due to the unknown attitude of the other spouse and also the variability in the speed of the Court system.

But legal costs can be easier to predict if a client and lawyer together embrace a non-adversarial approach and strive from the outset to negotiate a reasonable and fair agreement. Following this approach you can be reasonably confident that the cost of divorce will be restricted to your own legal bill and that your share of the matrimonial “pot” will not be depleted by major arguments on every issue. To sum up, is it really worth spending £10 arguing about £10? Some insist on doing so.

Who Pays the Costs?

In English law, costs, although Judges can do what they think is fair, in general will follow the event meaning that if you ‘win’ you can expect to have your costs paid by the “loser”.

Many lawyers thought this was a rather odd test in a divorce, for surely everybody “loses”? Only recently the law was changed in divorce cases so that normally whatever happens at any final hearing, the people involved will only pay their own legal fees. There is an exception to penalise anybody thought to have been behaving unreasonably in how they dealt with the case. So, what is the best approach?: 

  • Negotiate an early sensible financial settlement. There does need to be a balance between being speedy to keep costs down, but taking enough time to ensure the settlement and finances are properly thought through. 
  • If it does look like the case is going to go to Court, make sensible and fair early offers of settlement. They will protect against accusations of unreasonable dealing with the case and may be accepted.

Don’t Lose Sight of Your Goals

Divorce is an extremely stressful experience and even in cases where the separation itself is amicable, emotions often run high when it then comes to sorting out the financial settlement. In such circumstances it is, understandably, easy to lose sight of the fact that every penny spent in legal fees is a penny less in the matrimonial “pot”.

Try to remember what the real issue is. It should be making sure you obtain a decent and fair financial settlement and not “beating” your former spouse. Try to avoid matters of principle. They are especially expensive. Battles over points of principle often occur where one or both of the parties are struggling to come to terms with the emotional aspects of the relationship breakdown. The Court room is not the best place to air such grievances, instead think about the support that can be provided by a relationship counsellor or coach. We have contact with very caring counsellors and can put you in touch with them.

Finally, in close consultation with your divorce lawyer, take the first available opportunity to propose a reasonable settlement, endeavour to keep emotions, and costs, in check and, above all, negotiate, negotiate, negotiate! Of course negotiation isn’t about giving in and with preparation and advice you can achieve a solution that you are happy with.

Need further advice?

Call Woolley & Co on 0800 3213832 or book a free initial telephone appointment with one of our lawyers.

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