Need To See A Solicitor? What Can You Expect?

first meeting with solicitorThe time has come to see a solicitor. You’ve arranged a first meeting. What can you expect?

You can expect expert legal advice targeted to your particular circumstances. You can expect your questions to be answered (if you can, try and narrow down exactly what you want to find out by making a few notes beforehand).

Your solicitor will understand that difficult things may be happening in your life, and that making an appointment to see a solicitor is a big step. Your solicitor is there with all their years of experience to help you, and you are guaranteed a sympathetic and caring listener.

Choose The Right Solicitor …

One meeting with an expert family law solicitor may be all you need for now, or it might be the first step on a long journey. Whichever it is, make sure you chose the right solicitor, a member of Resolution. Check on the Resolution website.

Resolution’s 6,500 members follow a code of practice that promotes a non-confrontational approach to family problems. They encourage solutions that consider the needs of the whole family – and in particular the best interests of children.

When Making The Appointment

Make sure to say if it’s an emergency because your solicitor will try to slot you in for an early appointment. For example does it involve:

·     child abduction

·     domestic abuse

·     the risk of your partner disposing of assets to stop you making a claim against them?

Make sure you know exactly what the meeting is going to cost you – whether this is nothing in the case of a free discussion, or a fixed fee as agreed in advance.

Just Family Law offers a free 20 minutes telephone conversation. You’d be surprised the amount of ground that can be covered.

Alternatively there are fixed price meetings for half an hour or an hour. It’s up to you.

Remember your meeting with your solicitor is completely confidential. No one need ever know you’ve sought legal advice. Although you are of course welcome to bring a friend or family member with you as support.

How A Family Solicitor Can Help You …

·     Maybe you’ve decided your relationship is at an end

·     Maybe you need advice about the children, or the finances

·     Maybe you’re an older couple and worried about the affect of marriage breakdown on your pension

·     Maybe one or both of you were born abroad, settled in this country and now hope to return home. What does this mean for the children?

But it’s not all just about relationship breakdown. In the early stages of a relationship you might want a cohabitation agreement or a prenuptial agreement, as I mentioned in an earlier post.

Or perhaps your relationship broke down years ago and a query has now come up about the children. Maybe you or your partner want to take the children and relocate within the country, or abroad.

How Can I Help You? …

The guiding light of your first meeting with your solicitor is what you want to achieve from it – the advice, information and support you need. This is what your solicitor will focus on.

It could be that you’ve spent a great deal of time searching on the internet and you’re up to speed with the sorts of issues involved and you just need some fine tuning.

On the other hand you could be reeling from the breakdown of your relationship, unsure of what to do next, uncertain about what the future holds. You could have a particular and urgent concern. For example, the children. How can you tell them what’s happened? How will they cope? Where will they live? I have discussed in an earlier post how separating parents can help their children.

Or you might suspect that your partner is planning to sell or hide valuable assets so you can’t claim against them.

Or it could be that your partner is abusive and you are frightened.

So the first thing you need to do is communicate to your solicitor exactly what it is you want to achieve from this first meeting.

But before you come to the meeting please do provide any information that has been requested. Proof of identity is something that all solicitors have to ask for, just like banks and building societies. And if you’re asked to provide information about your family, or about the family finances in preparation for the meeting, or to fill in a questionnaire, this is to provide your solicitor with some background information so that the advice given you can be tailored to your needs. And remember, this is all totally in confidence.

Another way of looking at is that you’re in a maelstrom of events and you’re reaching out for help. Your solicitor will be able to give you the help you need, and it’s important that both you and your solicitor focus on what it is you need to talk about, here and now. But in the background it’s important that your solicitor has a broader view, even if at the moment it’s not possible or necessary to go into tremendous detail – that can follow.

You arrive at your solicitor’s office. A much anticipated first meeting. All your focus is on the here and now, what can your solicitor do to help you at this difficult and painful stage?

Will It Be A Load Of Confusing Legal Jargon? …

Definitely not.

If you’re feeling distressed and confused the last thing you need is great chunks of advice about issues that aren’t at the top of your list of priorities. Your solicitor will address your specific questions and answer them, and in a digestible way, and will of course understand that it’s a lot for you to take on board.

I like to make a plan at the end of a first meeting. It may be that you need to take action, gather information or documents, or talk to someone else before we meet again. If necessary these actions can be broken down into steps so that they’re easy to follow.

At the end of the meeting when all your concerns have been discussed, expect to be handed informative leaflets or fact sheets, or to be referred to helpful websites to assist you to come to terms with what is happening and what to do next.

Specialist family law firms offer solutions to assist you reach agreement with your partner without recourse to the courts such as collaborative law and mediation. They can also refer you to required and complementary services such as counselling, coaching, financial, pension advice to help with relationships and their breakdown.

Food For Thought …

Your discussions and the advice you’ve been given can be confirmed in writing – a good idea if you have decisions to make and you want to mull the whole situation over.

You may fear that your partner or family members will notice an email or a letter from a solicitor. In which case you can suggest to your solicitor another more secure postal or email address. Or alternatively you can collect the letter.

The Cost …

The all important question of the expense of any action required on your behalf will be addressed. Solicitors are bound by professional rules to tell you their hourly rate and to give you an estimate of how much the work will cost.

Often there are various options for dealing with your situation. You will be informed of all the choices open to you and how much they’re likely to cost because it’s important for you to make an informed decision before moving to the next stage.

Sometimes it’s possible to agree a fixed fee for the work required.

So that’s what you can expect from a first meeting with a solicitor

·     expert legal advice targeted to your particular circumstances

·     your questions to be answered. If you can, try and narrow down exactly what you want to find out by making a few notes beforehand

·     make sure you choose the right solicitor, a member of Resolution. Check on the Resolution website.

·     when you make the appointment make sure to say if it’s an emergency because your solicitor will try to slot you in for an early appointment.

·     your meeting with your solicitor is completely confidential. No one need ever know you’ve sought legal advice.

What do you look for when you are consulting a solicitor? We would love to hear your thoughts on this question – please do leave us a comment.

If you have found this post interesting please sign up below for new posts by email.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions.

Visit our website just-family-law.com

The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog might have application to you, you should seek expert legal advice.

image by ORBIX on wikimedia

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Prenuptial Agreement – Relationship Insurance?

prenuptial agreementDon’t be under any illusions about the significance of Prenuptial Agreements – if every couple had one it’s likely there would be far fewer disputes about finances. Divorce solicitors would be twiddling their thumbs and tumbleweed would be blowing along the corridors of our family courts.

But does the idea of a Prenuptial Agreement make you feel uncomfortable? It doesn’t sound like the most romantic idea in the run up to your marriage. And what about the wedding vows, how does a Prenuptial Agreement fit in with “until death do us part”?

But some say that a Prenuptial Agreement (or Pre-Registration Agreement for civil partners) proves in black and white that you’re not marrying for money, but for love.

And another way of looking at it is that it’s not planning for failure, but an insurance policy.

A Prenuptial Agreement is a contract freely entered into by a couple prior to their marriage setting out what will happen if they divorce. This is of particular concern in the case of assets brought into the marriage, or if there is an inheritance, or if there are children of an earlier relationship. If the Prenuptial Agreement is prepared with the assistance of an expert family solicitor, it stands a good chance of being upheld by the court if one or other of the couple go back on it.

The ITV series, “Victoria”, has reminded me of the young Queen’s passionate attachment to her adored Albert. When she asked him to marry her, he accepted, but they weren’t just billing and cooing in the run up to their wedding, they were thinking about how much Albert’s annual allowance would be.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were happily married for 21 years and had nine children. Their marriage only ended on Albert’s tragic death. But before they married they both recognised the importance of sorting out the finances.

And here are two essential points. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t committed to each other, that you won’t have a long and happy marriage. But it does mean there is an agreement between you.

This agreement of course has the potential to save you a great deal of money in terms of solicitors’ fees.

But unfortunately in the case of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Parliament interfered and reduced the amount Albert would receive. The young couple were not amused, in fact they were both highly annoyed.

You don’t need to worry too much about Parliament interfering, but do you want to risk the interference of the courts? If you don’t have a Prenuptial Agreement and your marriage or civil partnership breaks down all the finances are up for grabs. The court’s approach is that the ownership of any asset, whether it be in joint or sole names, and whenever it was acquired, can be changed.

As I have mentioned in a previous post this leads to uncertainty. That’s the downside. The upside is that it’s a flexible approach which takes into account differing circumstances.

But the thing about having a Prenuptial Agreement is that it can provide a degree of certainty. This can be particularly important if one of the couple is wealthy.

This was true of Miss Radmacher, a German heiress thought to be worth £100m, who married Mr Granatino, a French banker, in London in 1998. Before their wedding they entered into a Prenuptial agreement, the intention being to protect Miss Radmacher’s wealth.

Sadly after eight years and two children the marriage failed and despite their Prenuptial Agreement Mr Granatino made a claim against Miss Radmacher’s wealth. But the court upheld the Prenuptial Agreement, making the point that at the time the couple agreed it, they intended to stick to it and were fully aware of the financial position.

So although such Prenuptial Agreements are not automatically enforceable, since the important case of Radmacher v Granatino they carry a great deal of weight if drawn up with the assistance of an expert family law solicitor.

Of course the longer you are together the more likely it is that your circumstances will change. For example you could start a very successful business. If your Prenuptial Agreement no longer suits your circumstances it can be revised if you both agree.

Or if you don’t have a Prenuptial Agreement, you can enter into a Post Nuptial Agreement. 

In fact it’s never too late. Even if your marriage has broken down and you have decided to divorce you can enter into a Separation Agreement. This could provide for you to live separately for two years and then divorce. It could set out all the arrangements for property and money and the children in the meantime. As is the case with a Prenuptial Agreement, it would carry a great deal of weight if drawn up with the assistance of an expert family law solicitor. 

And don’t forget that if you want to enter into a Prenuptial or Post Nuptial or Separation Agreement, or you have an existing agreement and would like to renegotiate it, collaborative law or mediation is available if you are having difficulties with the fine details.

Do you like the idea of divorce solicitors twiddling their thumbs and tumbleweed blowing along the corridors of our family courts? Is a Prenuptial Agreement the answer? If you have an opinion, please leave us a comment. We would be interested to read it.

If you have found this post interesting please sign up below for new posts by email.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions.

Visit our website just-family-law.com

The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog might have application to you, you should seek expert legal advice.

 

Photograph by Lies Thru a Lens

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DIY Divorce and Online Divorce – What are the Risks?

online divorceYou’ve reached the end of the road and you want a divorce. You want to get on with it, you don’t want any fuss and bother, and you want to spend as little money as possible.

I’m not surprised at the rise of DIY divorce. There are sites all over the internet telling you how to do it or offering online assistance. It’s like everything else. Need a holiday, a new washing machine, a recipe for tonight’s dinner? Go online. You’ll find the answer.

But please always check with a real life family solicitor first, especially if there’s a disagreement about the children, or there’s a property, or valuable assets such as a pension. Speaking to a solicitor doesn’t have to cost anything (firms often offer an initial free discussion). And check they are a member of Resolution, an organisation committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes.

And of course talking to a solicitor doesn’t mean you can’t have a DIY divorce.

But if you need some help along the way a solicitor might be able to suggest a “pay as you go” or “fixed fee” scheme. Compare these to the charges for online divorce – you might be pleasantly surprised. You will have the assistance of a properly qualified and experienced solicitor with personal knowledge of your case. And if your solicitor is local, you can actually meet her.

I have acted for many distressed and heartbroken clients going through divorce and I know it’s never easy. Quite often the emotional fallout is much greater than anyone imagined. But from a purely technical point of view I can tell you that divorces vary tremendously in complexity. Some are straightforward. Some are not.

Let’s take two extreme cases.

A young woman consults me. She and her husband married just over a year ago and it hasn’t worked out. They have no children and they don’t own any property. They’re both young and healthy and have jobs. There are no savings or pensions. There’s been no domestic abuse. They both want a divorce and to move on.

She asks me whether I think she could do the divorce herself, I say, Yes, certainly. I suggest that she and her husband get together and draft the divorce petition themselves. As she’s ready with her questions about the documents I’m able to help her within our free twenty minute discussion.

I advise her she needs a court order recording that their financial claims against each other are over for good. This will protect her if her circumstances change in the future and her ex makes a claim against her. I tell her I can do this for her and will charge her a fixed fee (again you might be surprised how well this compares to online providers in terms of cost and service).

Another extreme would be the man who has been married seven years and has two children. He suspects his wife is hiding valuable assets, and is planning to dispose of them so he can’t claim a share. She was born in another country and is hinting that she will return and take the children with her.

Obviously he will need a great deal of expert legal advice. It might be necessary to go to court to prevent the wife disposing of assets or moving them abroad, and to clarify the position in regard to the children.

If your marriage or civil partnership has broken down and these or any other similarly serious issues apply to you, I would urge you not to delay. You need to see a family solicitor urgently. These are not the sort of issues suitable for a DIY or online divorce.

If there any issues about property, or assets, or children, or if there is an international element (especially if there is the risk of child abduction), you need someone on your side who knows family law like the back of their hand, someone who is prepared to drop everything to do what is necessary to protect you and your children, someone who will give you unbiased and independent advice.

In the long run consulting a family solicitor might even save you money because questions about property, pensions and other assets can affect the rest of your life.

It’s not just about agreeing to whatever your other half suggests here and now, it’s about the future, about where you’re going to live, how the children will be supported, how much you will have to live on in your old age (a vital question nowadays when people are living longer).

A family law solicitor will be able to tell what you should expect to achieve financially.

Anyone going through marriage breakdown needs as many options as possible. It doesn’t have to end up in court (but if it does, your family lawyer will be there for you). Maybe collaborative law or mediation is the answer?

And as you turn the corner and are able to look to the future, do you need help moving forward? Maybe you will need the support of a counsellor to help you see a brighter future?

A good family lawyer will be able to provide you with a range of services herself or be able to give you genuine and unbiased recommendations of services you can use.

I believe everyone has the right to seek the advice of a properly qualified and experienced expert. So certainly look online, but don’t forget to protect your future and the future of your children by organising a free or fixed cost interview with a family law solicitor.

It’s like when you’re organising a holiday. However independent you want to be in your travel plans, you certainly don’t want to fly the plane yourself. There’s an experienced pilot for that.

And that’s the value of a family law solicitor

Did you have a DIY Divorce? Are thinking about one? We would love to hear from you with your opinion so please leave us a comment.

If you have found this post interesting please sign up below for new posts by email.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions.

Visit our website just-family-law.com

The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog might have application to you, you should seek expert legal advice.

photograph by Darron Birgenheier on flickr

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