Deciding to divorce is one of the biggest decisions anybody is likely to make during their lifetime. As well as the emotional issues involved, there is always the concern around whether there will be enough money to support two separate households.
Historically, many people on lower incomes have been able to obtain Legal Aid (now known as Public Funding). Over the years financial eligibility for Legal Aid has been gradually reduced and under the latest changes will no longer be available in most ordinary circumstances.
The Government’s aim is to encourage as many couples as possible to reach agreement without recourse to the courts. Obviously it is desirable for couples to sit down and sort out their differences perhaps with the assistance of a mediator, but it isn’t a process that suits everyone.
Whilst relying on the courts is an expensive option, many solicitors now offer a range of alternatives which may make the process easier and cheaper.
Historically, solicitors have charged an hourly rate, with estimates given. This can result in worry about how the costs are increasing and whether the estimate will be exceeded, sometimes leading to reluctance to contact the solicitor if advice is ‘on the clock.’
At Napthens we offer a fixed cost service. This gives people peace of mind in being able to budget ahead for the cost involved.
A few firms including Napthens, now offer ‘collaborative law’ services. This is a specific method of approaching divorce where the couple agree not to go to court and instead meet with their partner and solicitors to discuss the way forward. Each party must engage a solicitor who is specifically qualified as a Collaborative lawyer. It is however potentially quicker, cheaper and less acrimonious than the court process.
When agreement cannot be reached and a decision has to be made, parties may also consider the option of referring their case to arbitration as opposed to the court.
There is no doubt that options including mediation, fixed costs, collaborative law and arbitration bring a flexibility to the system which has not previously been available and if you are considering a divorce you should discuss the options with your solicitor to find the process that best suit your needs.