Going through a divorce is one of life’s more stressful experiences. There is a lot of information you suddenly need to take in at a time in your life when emotions are running high and you may find yourself unable to focus properly. Here are some of the questions you need to ask your divorce solicitor when you first meet them in order to arm yourself for the fight ahead.
What costs are involved?
Solicitors often have an unfair reputation for charging huge fees for their services, yet the reality is that firms are normally both sympathetic and reasonable when it comes to negotiating their bill. In England, the Solicitors Regulatory Authority requires solicitors to inform clients about their likely legal costs before they come to their first appointment so that they can proceed, or not, with as much information as possible. Never presume that the first appointment is free; check this when you book.
What is your experience?
Experience of the law and other related aspects of handling a divorce is invaluable, so make sure you are satisfied that your chosen solicitor knows what they are talking about and has sufficient experience in the field. Do not be embarrassed to ask this as you must ensure the right fit for your specific situation. Personal recommendations from friends can help you shortlist firms, but always make your own enquiries as divorce cases and solicitors’ approaches vary wildly in both aims and outcomes.
What happens now?
Your solicitor will take you through the various steps involved in filing for divorce, including what you can expect to happen if it is brought to court, or if they think you and your soon to be ex spouse would benefit from mediation or talking therapy. You should take this chance to outline exactly what you want to happen in the divorce, from residency, access and maintenance arrangements for the children involved, to how assets like property, pensions, savings and belongings should be divided.
What do I need to do now?
You need to find out what paperwork you need to collect to build your case, as well as what your rights are concerning any property from the marriage. Ask how your solicitor will communicate with you, and how often, plus what you should do if you are contacted directly by your spouse or their legal team. Once you are happy to appoint the solicitor to manage your case, get your next meeting with them down in the diary so you have an immediate goal to work towards.
How long will the process take?
This question could be answered with the proverbial ‘how long is a piece of string’, but an experienced divorce solicitor should be able to make an informed guess based on their knowledge of similar cases they have handled or studied. They may ask you to undergo mediation, counselling or negotiation to try and agree things amicably and to stay away from the courts as much as possible. Follow your solicitors advice, as trying to cut corners to save money may end up costing you fare more if the settlement does not end up going in your favour.