I read with interest this week about the £54m divorce settlement – the UK’s biggest ever (for now). It is way beyond the comprehension of most people but what is closer to home is the cost of divorce. Though divorce doesn’t have to be expensive, so often, people can find themselves with rising bills as they attempt to thrash out a deal. So who IS responsible for spiralling costs in a divorce?
If a couple want to keep down the cost of a divorce and get through the process as quickly as possible, the best thing they can do is agree amicably on the settlement and arrangements relating to any children, without going to court. Get an experienced divorce and family lawyer to enshrine their understanding in an order that is ratified by the court and that’s that.
Unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as that and there are a number of reasons why, based on the approach taken by the parties:
“Win at all costs” – these are the individuals, and it may be just one of the divorcing parties but is worse if it is both, who will not listen to reason and simply want to have their way, whatever the cost. They will not negotiate, they will not back down. They have a scenario in their head they want to get to and that is what is going to happen. This type of person will incur higher legal fees and likely significant court costs. In the end, they are likely to be left disappointed when a judge is forced to make the decisions for them and so neither party gets what they want. I read recently about a couple in the US who’d spent 17 years in a legal battle over divorce!
“Keep changing the goal posts” – clear instructions to your solicitor will help bring things to a speedy, cost effective solution. If, however, a person keeps changing their mind about what they want, this will lead to increased work for all concerned, a longer period to reach agreement, and the potential for additional court time. Look at it this way – if you are planning work on your house your architect and builders need a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and the designs you approve, if you change your mind after the work has started, you are going to incur delays and additional costs. The same is true when you instruct a divorce solicitor and ultimately put your case to the court.
“Pub lawyers” – it is tempting, in these austere times, to try to cut costs by avoiding taking legal advice from a family lawyer and instead listening to the experience of family and friends, or the “bloke down the pub” and base a course of action on that advice. But, every case is unique. What was applicable and workable for one person might be the opposite for another. Paying for sound legal advice in the first instance will undoubtedly save you time and money in the long run.
Of course there are a host of other things that can impact on the cost, like your choice of lawyer. If they are a so-called “Rottweiler” and aggressively pursue a particular course, they will rack up costs, or the ill-experienced/non-specialist lawyer who is not really sure of the best course, so gives the wrong advice.
The best tips I can give for keeping down the cost of a divorce, in a nutshell, are these:
- Take advice from an experiencedily family lawyer as early as possible
- Be realistic in what you want to achieve
- Brief your lawyer clearly on your priorities and concerns
- Aim to come to an agreement without going to court.
Hopefully that way, the bill for the process will not impact significantly on the settlement you achieve.