I guess it is only human nature to worry about money. But it still does strike me as unusual sometimes the importance people assign to the cost of a divorce. It comes ahead of how the process works, what will happen to the children and division of assets.
So someone decides that they can no longer stay with the person they pledged to stay with forever when walking down the aisle. Or, if they’re not married but have been together for some time, someone with whom they may have bought a house and jointly purchased major items.
This is a life-changing decision. Things won’t be the same again. But other considerations are put aside as they ask: “How much it is going to cost.” Forget the upheaval, division of assets, starting anew, finding somewhere new to live etc.
It is perhaps even more puzzling when you remember that the average wedding in the UK these days costs about a million pounds (roughly!) People are quite happy to pay for their big day but if things don’t work, it is the cost of separating that is uppermost in their minds.
I am sure some people are put off getting a divorce because of the cost. They feel they cannot afford it. Perhaps they are not financially independent because they have given up a career to look after the children. It is a sad state of affairs if someone cannot change their personal circumstances for the better because they cannot afford legal fees – or think they can’t. As family lawyers, we have to do all we can to tackle this.
I’m not saying we should be offering legal services for free. That is not reasonable. However, it needs to be value for money in return for a world class level of customer service (or at least that is what we are striving for).
We recently put together a series of videos covering topics we thought would be of interest. Do you know the one that has had most views? “How to save money on a divorce.” That’s how I know this remains a primary concern for anyone debating divorce or separation.
“How to get a divorce” is in second place, illustrating that the process that people have to go through is not clear. In third place, it is “Children and divorce”.
The root of the preoccupation with cost is perhaps a perception that lawyers charge a fortune for complicated legal services “normal people” couldn’t possibly understand. The reality is that we are experts in a process – but we are there to make that process as fast and pain-free as possible, which includes keeping the costs down. Or at least that’s what we should be doing.
So, while this is not my Jerry Maguire-style manifesto, I do think our most popular video illustrates family lawyers need to be doing all they can to ensure the divorce process is made as quick and cost effective as possible so that people are not forced to stay in an unworkable situation because they think they cannot afford to change their lives.