What is Family Mediation? 10 FAQs

What is Family Mediation?

What is family mediation and why is it a good idea for you and your family? Family mediation offers a low cost, fast route to reaching an agreement with your ex. Finding the right mediator could mean your children are given a voice, too. Sadly children often feel lost and confused in the aftermath of a relationship breakdown.

But how do you find the right mediator? Consult an experienced family lawyer for a recommendation.

1. What is Family Mediation

A trained mediator will help you to identify the issues between you and to reach an agreement. And if you can’t sit in the same room as your ex there can be ‘shuttle’ mediation.

But please take expert legal advice alongside the mediation process. Why? The mediator can’t advise you of your rights.

2. What does mediation cover

Whether married, in a civil partnership, or cohabitees, when a relationship breaks down there’s a lot to think about:

  • what’s going to happen to the family home
  • what are the best arrangements for the children
  • how much child support should be paid
  • how should the savings and pensions be divided

3. What is hybrid mediation

You both take your solicitors along with you to mediation. Why? Their presence can help keep things objective – especially if there’s conflict between you and your ex. Your solicitor can advise you, and can even speak on your behalf. Hybrid mediation is also helpful where a legal issue is getting in the way of settling your dispute.

4. What are the advantages of mediation

  • narrows and resolves issues with the help of a third party
  • cheaper and faster than going to Court
  • you can tailor an agreement to fit your family
  • children can be heard
  • you and your ex can move forward amicably

5. What about international families

Reaching an agreement with your ex can be challenging if one of you lives away, or even abroad. Some family lawyers offer Skype mediation. Here at Just Family Law we offer this at our Winchester office.

6. Why do I need legal advice during mediation

Mediators don’t give legal advice. What can you expect from a family lawyer during the mediation process? – they can:

  • recommend a mediator
  • advise you what a fair outcome would be
  • support you through the process

7. What happens when we’ve reached an agreement

The mediator records your agreement in a Memorandum of Understanding – however it’s not legally binding. How can you safeguard your agreement and avoid misunderstandings in the future? The answer is that you need a consent order.

8. What’s a consent order and how do I get one

A consent order is absolutely essential. Your solicitor will be able to prepare it for you. See my blog How do I get a Consent Order.

9. How can the lawyers at Just Family Law help me

We can:

  • provide in-house civil mediation for cohabitees when they can’t agree about their family home
  • recommend a suitable family mediator
  • support you in hybrid mediation
  • host Skype mediations in our Winchester office when your ex lives away or abroad
  • give you advice and support in the background as your mediation proceeds
  • prepare a consent order for you

Mediators are often solicitors, but not necessarily – many fully trained mediators are not solicitors. But please note: your solicitor and mediator can’t be the same person, or even in the same firm.

10. What is Family Mediation? – next steps …

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on What is Family Mediation? In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post What is Family Mediation? are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

image for What is Family Mediation? Family playing a board by Bill Branson on Wikimedia

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Change in US Tax Rules for Alimony


Change in US Tax Rules for AlimonyA big change in US tax rules for alimony is coming up in December 2018.

Do you live in the UK and your ex in the US? Or do you live in the US and your ex in the UK?

This change might apply to you and you may need to take urgent action.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act 2017 applies after 31 December 2018. Currently, payment of alimony (as maintenance is known in the US) is tax deductible. And those who receive alimony (the lower earner, so generally the wife) pay tax on it.

The change will mean husbands (generally the higher earner) will get no tax advantage and wives will no longer pay tax.

Two Ways of Looking at Change in US Tax Rules for Alimony

International families are rushing to finalise their financial arrangements to preserve the tax position. But there are two ways of looking at it.

Some say it’s a bad thing. Husbands will lose the tax advantage and may want to pay less alimony. And as wives won’t have to pay tax why should husbands pay them so much anyway? If you look at it this way you can understand why some international couples are panicking.

The UK went through similar tax changes in 1989. Lawyers were initially nervous. Would husbands be less willing to pay? Would wives miss out?

But in the long run the change in UK tax law didn’t make too much difference. Maintenance is calculated in the UK on the basis of need. How much does the wife require to support herself and the children? And what is the shortfall between her requirement and her income? This figure generally indicates the sort of maintenance that is required. See my recent blog Maintenance and Clean Break on Divorce.

Since 1989 there hasn’t been the head scratching and the complicated calculations – if he pays this much, how much tax relief will he get? So shouldn’t he pay more and pass over some of the benefit? And what about the wife, will it push her into a tax paying bracket? How much tax exactly will she have to pay? None of this applies anymore. In the UK it’s now a simple case of “What You See Is What You Get“.

Change in US Tax Rules for Alimony – Long Term & Short Term

Short term, couples will want to take advantage of the existing tax system. But hopefully the impending change won’t tip wavering couples into divorce.

Long term, it’s possible the change won’t make a fundamental difference. And it might save on professional fees as it will be simpler to work out what is actually paid and received – because they will be one and the same.

Change in US Tax Rules for Alimony and International Tax Rules

If one of you is US or UK based, and the other in a country where tax remains relevant, such as Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands or Portugal, make sure you take advice from an expert international family lawyer.

Prenuptial Agreements

If you are in an international family and you have an existing prenuptial agreement you should seek advice on the impact of the change in US tax rules for alimony.

Don’t Delay!

Anyone wanting to take advantage of the existing system should make sure they take advice now. There may still be time to secure a maintenance or alimony order – whether by consent or in Court – prior to 31 December 2018. And please note that the detail of the changes coming up in the US tax rules are complex and far reaching, and go well beyond the scope of this article. So please don’t delay taking expert advice.

Contact  Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on the forthcoming change in US tax rules for alimony. In this 20 minute session we will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions. We offer collaborative law which is especially relevant in providing solutions tailored to your family’s needs. This includes same sex couples and their families. Visit our website just-family-law.com The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. Therefore if any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog have application to you, seek expert legal advice.

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My Husband Has Left Me What Are My Rights?

My Husband Has Left Me What Are My Rights?My husband walked out on me, what are my rights?” This is a question I am asked only too often. Because in the immediate aftermath of a break up in a marriage, there’s a lot to worry about. And it’s not just the emotional fall out – which is bad enough – but the finances too. And particularly if you are the prime carer of the children, and don’t have immediate access to income to keep the family and the home afloat. It can all seem a bit of a nightmare.

Let Me Give You An Example Of The Issues

Judy comes to see me. Her husband, Richard, has discovered she’s having an affair with her Pilates instructor. Richard has left her and says she won’t get a penny of his money. He’s a high earner, and she’s at home looking after their two small children. Richard has his yacht and Ferrari up for sale and has threatened to move all his money abroad. He owns the family home in his sole name and has sent round an estate agent who says it’s going on the market.

Can Judy Stop Richard Selling The Family Home?

Yes. Judy can protect her right to occupy the family home.

She or her solicitor can send an application to the Land Registry for registration of a Notice of Home Rights. Indeed anyone who is not a joint owner should register their home rights as quickly as possible if their marriage has broken down.

Can Judy Stop Richard Selling His Yacht And His Ferrari And Moving All His Money Abroad?

Yes, Judy or her solicitor can make an urgent application to the Court to freeze Richard’s assets.

Can Judy Get Maintenance From Richard On An Emergency Basis?

Yes, Judy or her solicitor can make an application to the Court for maintenance pending suit (sometimes called interim maintenance).

Can Judy Get Maintenance From Richard To Enable The Family To Remain In The Family Home?

Judy will need to use the Child Maintenance Service to get payments for the children. As for ongoing maintenance for herself, that depends on both her and Richard’s financial situation.

Can Court be Avoided?

If Richard calms down and agrees to negotiate, or to mediate, or to use collaborative law, there’s no reason why this has to go to Court.

Although as mentioned above, registering a Notice of Home Rights is always advisable where the family home is not in joint names.

I’m Married, My Husband Has Left Me What Are My Rights?

Contact  Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on your rights. In this 20 minute session we will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.


JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions. We offer collaborative law which is especially relevant in providing solutions tailored to your family’s needs. This includes same sex couples and their families. Visit our website just-family-law.com The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. Therefore if any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog have application to you, seek expert legal advice.

 

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Financial Settlement On Divorce, How To Get The Best One For You – 5 FAQs

Financial Settlement On Divorce

  1. What’s The Best Way To Tackle Your Financial Settlement On Divorce?

By all means come to an agreement about the matrimonial finances between yourselves. But make sure you obtain advice from an expert family solicitor to ensure it’s a fair deal. This could save you money in the long term because the wrong financial settlement can affect the rest of your life.

Your solicitor should advise you of your options such as negotiation, mediation or collaborative law. But if these don’t work, Court proceedings might be the answer. Your solicitor will tell you how much these options are likely to cost.

  1. What Happens First?

All the matrimonial assets are utilised to provide a fair settlement for both of you. So you both need to provide information about every single one, whether owned in your joint names, or in your sole names:

  • The value of the family home (and any other property) and the size of the mortgage
  • Bank and building society accounts
  • Shares
  • Pensions
  • Any other investments
  • Debts

And you will both need to provide details of your income and outgoings, too.

  1. Which Assets Are Non Matrimonial? 

Can you protect your inheritance on divorce? How can you ring fence your business? How about property owned pre-marriage? You will need expert legal advice to answer these questions. But you must, first of all, disclose the existence of these assets, and their value.

  1. How Are Assets Divided For Your Financial Settlement On Divorce?

The starting point is equal division. But the Matrimonial Causes Act tells us we must also consider various factors, and any one of these could mean an adjustment to income or capital. The list of factors includes:

The Welfare Of Any Children
Income and Earning Capacity

The approach is to achieve a “clean break” between couples by capital adjustment rather than ongoing maintenance.

Financial Needs

If there are children, the parent with whom they live is likely to have a greater need for capital.

Standard Of Living During The Marriage

In rare cases where there is an excess of capital and income, this is an argument for a greater share.

Your Ages, And The Length Of The Marriage

There are different considerations depending on the ages of the couple, and whether it’s a short marriage or a long marriage.

Any Physical Or Mental Disabilities

This could be a case for ongoing maintenance, or extra capital.

Contributions To The Marriage

High achievers can attempt to ring fence their “stellar contribution

5.         Is A Court Order Required?

A Court order means if one of you changes your mind, or if one of you comes into money, there’s no going back for a second bite of the cherry. And it’s a relatively simple matter for a solicitor to draw up an order and to send it to Court. Ask for a fixed fee quote.

Contact Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on your financial settlement on divorce. In this 20 minute session we will:

  • Review your matrimonial financial situation and how you can achieve your objectives
  • Give you an overview of how a suitable financial settlement may be achieved by either negotiation, collaborative law, mediation, or Court procedure

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions. We offer collaborative law which is especially relevant in providing solutions tailored to your family’s needs. This includes same sex couples and their families.

Visit our website just-family-law.com

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

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Collaborative Law & Divorce: The Importance Of Assertiveness

I have guided many clients through the collaborative law divorce process and I have noticed a common theme. Many simply do not know how to assert themselves. Perhaps this is because they have lived for years with a forthright and dominating partner? Maybe it’s been easier to acquiesce?

But with the marriage over, and the rest of their lives to deal with, the time for acquiescence has gone. It’s time to be assertive.

A Collaborative Law Divorce Can Forge A Positive Future For Families

It can also provide a life changing learning experience in assertiveness.

I remember in particular a client I will call Rebecca. She travelled the world with her husband, Geoffrey. They rarely stayed in one country, let alone one home, for long. Her family – her husband and three tiny children – were her entire life.

But she told me Geoffrey had left her and was eager to negotiate a quick settlement. He wanted to put the marriage behind him. She was tearful and anxious because she simply had no idea what to do. Where would she live? Where would the children go to school? Would their father remain a positive influence in their lives? Would she have enough money?

Collaborative Law Divorce: The Process

I told her about the collaborative process and how I could help her as her collaborative lawyer. She would be able to resolve the issues that concerned her, negotiate the necessary arrangements, and make the right decisions for her family.

I would sit at her side in meetings with her husband and his collaborative lawyer as her voice, support, and legal adviser.

Collaborative Law Divorce And Life Coaching

Rebecca was interested in a collaborative law divorce but said she feared conflict with Geoffrey. She would never find the courage to stand up to him. Furthermore she feared he would simply turn his back on her and the children forever.

And she was anxious about the cost of the divorce. Would the outcome leave her and the children in penury?

I gently reminded her she must try to think long term. Would she consider consulting a life coach? I could recommend one who specialised in the difficulties arising from marriage breakdown. Other clients had found new confidence as a result. They had been able to deal with painful issues, and achieve a level playing field.

Rebecca thought about my suggestion. A few days later she got back to me and said yes, she would like to go ahead.

The Power Of Assertiveness In The Collaborative Process

I introduced Rebecca to a life coach. They made great strides together. It wasn’t long before we were able to start the collaborative process.

Rebecca was now able to face all the issues head on, and state her point of view with conviction. In addition she now realised she had the right to express her views, refuse settlement proposals, and offer her own ideas. It was a pleasure to sit by her side and guide her.

If in the collaborative process you are assertive, and focused on your needs, you will achieve the best settlement for yourself and your family, long term. And as a result the experience will help you manage your family better after your divorce. In particular the unreasonable demands and expectations of others.

The assertiveness you have learned during the collaborative law divorce process will help you plan financially for the future.

In Conclusion

The experience of your collaborative divorce will be your first step to developing your independence and autonomy in your newly formed, separated family.

Phone Us For A Free Consultation …

Phone Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for a free 20 minute consultation on these important issues.

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

We offer collaborative law which is especially relevant in providing solutions tailored to your family’s needs, including same sex couples and their families.

Visit our website just-family-law.com

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

image credit: Woman Pointing by Helmuts Rudzītis (filter etc applied) on Flickr

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Collaborative Law – How Can It Help With Family Breakdown?

collaborative law family breakdownHow can couples move on from relationship breakdown with positive feelings? How can conflict – about money, about children – be minimised?

If I could say one thing, and one thing only, to help people mend the pain of relationship breakdown, and to translate the inevitable hurt feelings into something a lot more positive, I would say “try collaborative law“.

Did you know that collaborative law involves you and your ex, and both of your solicitors, signing an agreement that no one will issue court proceedings? This means that all of you, solicitors included, are totally committed to finding a solution. Any approach which avoids going to court has got to be good.

So how does collaborative law work? The principle is that the four of you, that’s you, your ex, and both of your solicitors, will have a series of meetings, usually three or four, and these will be organised and will proceed at a pace which is right for you. Your solicitor will be there to advise you and will communicate on your behalf with your ex and their solicitor if you don’t feel up to engaging directly yourself.

The first point to make is of course that if you can reach a final agreement over a series of three or four meetings over a period of months (but sometimes even just a few weeks), you will have saved yourself a great deal of time. Court proceedings can take much longer, a year or more sometimes.

At the first meeting you will all sign the collaborative law participation agreement. No one is going to issue court proceedings, and if they do, both of you will have to find new solicitors as the solicitors appointed to act in the collaborative process can’t continue. You also agree to be respectful to each other and to give “financial disclosure”, which means you will both have to provide details and documents proving all your income and assets. This disclosure is required whenever matrimonial finances are addressed – whether this be in negotiation, mediation, collaborative law, or court.

You agree the agenda for the second meeting. This will be the issues that are important to each of you. Every family is different and this is your opportunity to say what you want to achieve. Typically the agenda will include how the family home will be dealt with. If there are children it might be that they’re finding it difficult to adjust to the breakdown of their parents’ relationship. A priority can be exploring how to ease the transition for them.

It’s possible to involve other experts, such as counsellors to help you cope with the breakdown, or to assist the children in the transition, and financial experts who can advise on the valuation of your assets.

There’s an orderly and honest exchange of financial information at the second meeting, the focus still on what the couple want to achieve.

At the third meeting typically all the cards are put on the table. Individual priorities are known; the facts and figures are at your finger tips; you both have your solicitors there to advise and support you. There’s hard talking and inevitably compromise on both sides.

If not at the third meeting, then typically at the fourth meeting a final solution is agreed. There’s been compromise on both sides, possibly even a few tears, but you’ve achieved what seemed like the impossible by communicating and ultimately agreeing with your ex. You’ve laid the foundation for moving on with your life and putting all the heartbreak behind you. Who knows, you might even be able to be friends. You will certainly be in a stronger position to co-parent successfully, which as I have mentioned in an earlier post requires careful navigation.

You have been an active participant in the decision making process – far more empowering and healing than leaving it to a Judge to decide. And unlike mediation you (and your ex) have received advice throughout the process, and your solicitor has been with you to communicate on your behalf if you haven’t felt you wanted to engage directly with your ex.

In the court process there’s only a limited selection of orders that can be made. But in collaborative law, personal tailoring is possible, unique agreements can be reached. When you and your ex decide what’s best for your particular family, you can make agreements not generally available in court proceedings. You can agree the nuts and bolts of how you’re going to co-parent your children, where they’re going to live on a day to day basis, how you’re going to coordinate your care of them, how their individual needs can be met.

If you’re able to talk all this through – the property, the money, the children, the routine of co-parenting – then it makes it more likely that you will be able to continue being a family, a different family of course, but a family none the less, with two parents who work together in the interests of their children.

As you will have made the transition with little acrimony and are moving on with your lives separately but positively, there will be no need for your extended families and friends to take sides. You won’t dread your child’s wedding day, wondering how you and your ex will be able to sit at the top table together, let alone in the same room. You will still be a functioning family.

Collaborative law is the way to move forward positively from the breakdown of your relationship.

Wouldn’t you agree that any approach which avoids going to court has got to be good? If you have an opinion about collaborative law, please do share your comment with us, we would like to hear from you.

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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.

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8 Tips On Arrangements For Children After Separation


1. If as parents you remain amicable and able to make arrangements for the children yourselves, this really is the best thing you can do for them.

2. Where will the children live and how often will they see their absent parent? Depending on their age and understanding you’ll probably need to discuss these questions with them.

3. There may have to be compromises on both sides but as long as the arrangements are in the children’s best interests that’s okay. Try to agree a routine which everyone can keep to because children who see their absent parent are likely to have better outcomes in terms of social, psychological and physical development. It’s also best if the absent parent remains involved in parenting, is supportive of the children, and provides love and affection.

4.   Children can be just as stressed as adults by repeated moves and long term financial problems. Absent parents sometimes think providing financial support is linked to seeing the children, but regardless of whether the absent parent sees them regularly (for whatever reason) financial support is vital for their long-term wellbeing.

5.   If you can’t agree arrangements please try collaborative law or mediation before going to court.

6.   When the arrangements are in place make sure contact with the children is positive, loving and child focused.

7.   To prevent contact tailing off be prepared to agree new routines and different forms of contact.

8.   What happens if the children don’t see the absent parent? It’s important to explain to them why, and to provide meaningful information about the absent parent.

Phone me on 01962 217640 for a free 20 minute consultation on these important issues.

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.

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6 Things You Need To Know About “Common Law Marriage”

common law marriage partner1.   There’s no such thing as common law marriage but there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Couples who live together have only a fraction of the protection afforded to those who are married.

2.   Unless your home is in joint names, and there’s a declaration of trust, there’s no automatic right to a share, or a fair share. If the worst comes to the worst it may be possible to come to an agreement by negotiation, mediation or collaborative law (or even by going to court) but it’s a legal minefield.

3.   Update your Wills regularly. If your partner doesn’t leave a Will you may end up with nothing and face a complicated and expensive application to the court with no guarantee of the outcome you expected.

4.   Children of separating cohabitees are treated the same when it comes to arrangements for where they’re going to live and who they’re going to see, and the Child Maintenance Service (the Child Support Agency) can help if the absent parent isn’t paying up. But there are significant differences when it comes to lump sum payments, property orders and extra maintenance, and there are special provisions under Schedule 1 of the Children Act.

5.   Nowadays pensions are of utmost importance. Would you be entitled to your late partner’s pension? It’s not guaranteed so don’t leave anything to chance, find out now.

6.   A cohabitation agreement offers some protection but will need regular updating and won’t be binding in court proceedings, particularly if there’s a change in circumstances such as the arrival of children. It also won’t cover for example your entitlement to your partner’s pension if your partner dies before you.

Phone me on 01962 217640 for a free 20 minute consultation on these important issues.

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.

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10 Pitfalls of DIY Divorce

 

DIY Divorce1.   Family law is complicated and always changing and you’re likely to find yourself out of your depth. You may regret your DIY financial agreement for the rest of your life.

2.   You may be denied a fair share of the business as your ex has undervalued it.

3.   You might be left with your ex’s debts.

4.   When you’re older you may realise you focused on the value of the family home and not enough on a fair share of the pension. Or you might discover your share of the pension pot (even though it seemed fair at the time) doesn’t provide you with a fair share of the pension income.

5.   Your DIY financial agreement may not include all the assets or liabilities, or may not deal with them fairly, or it may be impossible to put into effect, and you may end up involved in expensive and time consuming court proceedings as a result.

6.   Your ex may not keep to the DIY agreement or may come back for more in the future as you haven’t finalised it as a court order.

7.   You might find yourself accused of child abduction (an imprisonable offence) if you’re an international family and not in agreement about where the children should live.

8.   You may find it impossible to keep things amicable which is damaging for the children.

9.   You’ll miss out on the opportunity of reaching an amicable agreement with the assistance of mediation or collaborative law.

10. You’ll miss out on the expertise and experience of a family solicitor.

Phone me on 01962 217640 for a free 20 minute consultation on these important issues.

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.

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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.

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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.

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