You’ve decided you’re going to divorce, turning your world upside down and leading to weeks or even months of arguments and tears. You’re just starting to accept this is going to happen and you need to speak to someone but where to start?
This blog covers the basic divorce options. Firstly what a divorce is, how you get one and what it might cost.
When you or I talk about ‘getting divorced’ we use it as a general term to mean the whole thing. The separation, the telling the kids, the moving homes, the selling things and the agreeing parenting time with each other. It is likely to be a prolonged and emotional process which generally follows the steps below.
Most people’s starting point for help is the internet and amid the vast quantities of information available, you will see offers starting from £59 to process your divorce. So what does this mean in the context of above?
This charge is to simply fill out the forms to submit to a court with will legally dissolve a marriage, i.e. step 6 on the list above. That alone doesn’t complete a divorce. Unless you are on certain benefits you will have to pay a court fee of £410 in addition to your £59. So your starting point is close to £500. This assumes you have discussed and agreed all the steps from 1 – 4 and have documented all agreements in your divorce petition.
In reality, it is agreeing on the parenting plan and the financial decisions (steps 3 and 4 above) that can require lots of time and energy to navigate successfully and there will need to be evidence of everything being agreed for a judge to allow you to divorce.
The rest of this blog focuses on the divorce options for steps 3 & 4 above and the financial implications of each option.
An independent, trained professional that helps you and your partner to work out agreements for children or finances.
A Family Consultant work in a similar way to a mediator. They will engage your partner in the process, help you both prepare emotionally and facilitate your conversations to come to agreements about parenting and finances. A Family Consultant will probably have a psychological qualification rather than a mediation qualification. They are likely to focus on the emotional journey and improving your parenting relationship
This is a cost-effective option but carries risks and requires time, effort (& emotional headspace) on your part in understanding the legal process and where to find accurate information.
With all of the options above there is the potential that you still can’t reach an agreement and therefore things escalate. If that happens then you need to turn towards more specialist help, there are two main routes at this point.
Use a Solicitor
This is a very common option but can also be an expensive one, a solicitor can manage the entire process from step 3 onwards and will deal with your partner’s solicitor. Under English and Welsh law you need separate solicitors so this means the hourly cost is doubled.
Sometimes negotiations can go nowhere or one or more of the following situations occur
*People often mistakenly think a court can force their partner to disclose their assets. The court has little power other than to draw inferences from the non-disclosure. Whichever process you use you can re-open the case if you find evidence of non-disclosure at a later date.
If this happens the court will decide how to split the families assets. This is called a “financial order”.
The costs of hiring a solicitor for a court process are high. You may also need representation by a barrister if the case goes to a final hearing. A recent report estimated that the average cost of divorce through the court is £40,000 in London per person (£80,000 total) and outside London £13,000 per person.
A new approach to solving point 4, i.e. the financial matters is to consider family arbitration. You and your partner appoint an arbitrator to make a decision (under English & Welsh law) on any financial and property issues arising from the breakdown of your relationship that you have not been able to reach agreement on.
They can make decisions on single issues or entire financial cases. The arbitrator will make a decision that will be final and binding between you. This is a ‘private court’ and cheaper and quicker than going to court. Arbitrators charge by the hour rates vary widely and more qualified arbitrators charging thousands of pounds to settle cases.
I hope this blog has given you some useful insights as to the options currently available. At amicable we feel that there is a role for technology to play in helping people navigate this process. A DIY option with additional support. Therefore we have developed an app to help couples successfully divide their assets and make arrangements for their children whilst saving legal fees. To find out more please contact us.