If you are considering a legal separation or a divorce the critical start point is likely to determine how much you pay overall, both financially and emotionally. This blog explains why. Some people are led to believe that you have to pay in excess of £10,000 to do it properly. Not true. Nowhere close.
If you sadly reach the point where your marriage or civil partnership is over there are lots of disjointed pieces of information floating around and professionals encouraging you to meet with them first.
We see many people who made what in hindsight appears to them to have been the error of engaging a solicitor to write to the other party in the first instance, engaging in what can become a very expensive and escalating version of "letter ping pong".
1. The first step in the vast majority of cases should be mediation and we would suggest this is with a specialist service as they will not charge you to contact your ex partner. We see clients at a first appointment who have spent £4,000 on a solicitor, their ex partner is now very angry and they haven't actually achieved anything! The client is then starting to panic about the costs before they are even off the starting blocks.
2. Being contacted by a solicitor whilst reeling from end of a relationship can feel intimidating to some. If we feel intimidated or threatened our reactions are fight or flight, therefore the reaction from the other side can become bullish, entrenched or even aggressive. That reaction isn't going to make compromise over the split of the house easier is it?
3. What if solicitors say mediation is a "waste of time" now why would a solicitor say that? It can save you thousands of pounds so how can it be a waste of time...for you? It could lose a law firm a high fee of course as it costs many many thousands of pounds to be represented at court. Do you really want to pay £40,000 to make your ex partner pay? We work with some very good solicitors who support clients through the process but they do not describe mediation as such. In fact we are even trusted with people close to them.
4. Aren't there some bad mediation services out there? Yes. There are. There are some solicitors who do not appear effective. Some mediation services where this applies and some shocking Mackenzie Friends so make sure your mediator is accredited, is experienced and check whether the service has ex solicitors or lawyers on the team, ideally those from other backgrounds too. Make sure your team covers all bases.
5. Talking of covering all bases, if a service doesn't charge more (or if you can afford to pay a little more for a second mediator) at least consider co-mediation with a lawyer/non lawyer team. Success rates are likely to be higher as you have two professionals working for you.
6. A good mediation service will know of effective mediation supporting solicitors in case you need independent legal advice during the process, they are also likely to know of other specialists that might be helpful during the process. Even if mediation does break down it is likely that you will have narrowed issues and will spend less through the legal route to resolve.
7. What will I save if I pick a good mediation service first? Potentially this could save you a disputed court case which, if represented through to a final hearing could cost you £20,000 plus and £50,000 is not unusual. More importantly, you might actually have reached a calm place where you and your ex partner can co-parent your priceless children as after a bitter legal battle this is near impossible.