Your options for legal or financial advice on divorce or dissolution
The amount of legal or financial advice you take will depend on how complicated your divorce or dissolution is, how much money you have to pay for advice and how amicable your break-up is. Many couples use one of more professionals during their divorce or dissolution.
Do you need a solicitor to get divorced or dissolve your civil partnership?
To legally end your marriage or civil partnership, you will need to go through the formal divorce or dissolution process. But you can do this yourself with limited or no legal help.
Should you take professional help and advice?
You don’t need to use a solicitor or other professional when you sort out the finances – you can just decide between the two of you what you’d like to do.
But many couples do seek legal advice from professionals, even if that’s only a one-off meeting with a solicitor or an initial meeting with a mediator.
Various professional advisers can help you. You may find that one approach is better suited to your needs – and budget – than another.
Using a mediator
A mediator can help you and your ex-partner (husband, wife or civil partner) reach your own agreement about children and financial matters.
They don’t take sides or give advice; instead, they help couples work towards an agreement. An increasing number of family lawyers are also trained mediators.
Mediation works best where couples trust each other to be open and honest. If you and your ex-partner cannot talk about who should look after the children or how you will divide your money, mediation may not be right for you.
It’s also not appropriate where there’s been domestic violence or where one partner is controlling or intimidating. A mediator will tell you whether your situation is suitable for mediation.
If you’re divorcing in England or Wales, you now have to attend one session to assess whether mediation is suitable for you, before you can apply to the court to resolve any financial or children issues.
This is called a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. You may be able to get legal aid to help pay mediation costs, but it’s means-tested.
Pros and cons of mediation
- Mediation can be quicker and more cost effective than a traditional lawyer-led divorce or dissolution, and couples can feel more in control of the agreement.
- Mediation is flexible so you can use it to agree some areas of your divorce or dissolution but not others.
- Mediation sessions are confidential. That means if you can’t reach agreement and go to court, what’s been said in the sessions can’t be used by your solicitor.
- Mediators cannot give legal advice. That means you should see a solicitor before you start mediation so you know your rights. You also need to get a solicitor to draw up a legal agreement formalising anything you’ve agreed.
You can find a mediator:
- In England or Wales on the Family Mediation Council website or on the National Family Mediation website.
- In Scotland on the Relationships Scotland website.
- In Northern Ireland the Family Mediation NI website
Using a solicitor
A solicitor can give you advice on your rights, responsibilities and entitlements. You can use them to:
- help you with the divorce or dissolution forms and paperwork
- give you independent legal advice, either if you’re negotiating a settlement through mediation or at the start of your process if you’re doing a do-it-yourself divorce or dissolution
- negotiate on your behalf directly with your ex-partner’s solicitor, and through the courts if necessary
- put into effect an agreement you have reached independently with your ex-partner
Pros and cons of using a solicitor
- A solicitor may give you information about your financial entitlement that you would not otherwise be aware of. If your ex-partner will not negotiate with you, using a solicitor may be more effective than trying to sort it out directly. Most solicitors offer fixed-fee services or capped rates, which can be cost effective.
- A solicitor can be very expensive, although costs will vary depending on the law firm, where it is based and how complicated your divorce or dissolution is.
You can find a solicitor:
- In England or Wales on the Resolution website. Solicitors who are members of Resolution are committed to minimising confrontation during divorce or dissolution. If you prefer you can find a solicitor on the Law Society website.
- In Northern Ireland on the the Law Society of Northern Ireland website.
- In Scotland on the Family Law Association website. FLA members are committed to minimising confrontation during divorce or dissolution. If you prefer you can find a family lawyer on the Law Society of Scotland website.
Using a collaborative family lawyer
Collaborative family lawyers are specially trained solicitors who can help you reach agreement through a series of meetings with your ex-partner. You and your ex-partner each have your own collaborative family lawyer.
- You all sign an agreement not to go to court.
- You agree to work together to resolve the issues between you.
- Meetings are carried out face-to-face between all four of you.
Pros and cons of collaborative family law
- Couples often feel more positive about an agreement reached through collaborative family law than a traditional lawyer-led divorce or dissolution because they have been directly involved in negotiations. Collaborative family lawyers can work with accountants or pension specialists if they are needed.
- It can be more expensive than a traditional lawyer-led divorce or dissolution (depending on how much a couple can agree between them). If couples can’t reach agreement through collaborative family law and take their dispute to court, new solicitors would have to be appointed, which would add to the costs.
- It works best if you and your ex-partner live near each other or can easily get to the round table meetings. It may be difficult to find a collaborative family lawyer if you live in a rural location.
You can find a collaborative family lawyer:
- In England or Wales on the Resolution website.
- In Northern Ireland on the A friendly divorce website.
- In Scotland on the Consensus Collaboration Scotland website.
Using an accountant
An accountant can help value assets, such as a business. Some accountants specialise in assessing whether one partner is hiding their assets (typically property, a business or investments) or downplaying the value of a business they own. They are called ‘forensic accountants’.
Pros and cons of using an accountant
- If you choose the right accountant they will be experts in valuing businesses; something that a lawyer would not have experience of.
- The costs can be high, especially for a forensic accountant. Even if they can show that assets have been hidden, forcing your partner to release those assets may cost more than the assets are worth.
You can find a chartered accountant:
- In England or Wales on the website of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.
- In Northern Ireland on the Chartered Accountants Ireland website.
- In Scotland on the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland website.
Using an actuary
An actuary is a specialist who can provide an accurate valuation of a final salary or other salary-related pension. Working out the true value of one of these pensions can be complicated and it’s not something a family law solicitor would be able to do.
- Useful for valuing pensions that can be complicated to assess.
- The costs can be high.
You can find an actuary on the website of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.
Using a financial adviser
A financial adviser can advise on issues such as how to divide assets in the most tax-efficient way and how to invest the proceeds of a divorce or dissolution settlement.
- Specialist advice may be valuable in financially-complex divorce or dissolution cases.
- Using a financial adviser will add to the overall costs of divorce or dissolution.
You can find an independent financial adviser on the Unbiased website or for financial advisers based in England or Wales who are accredited as experts in divorce or dissolution on the Resolution website.