Divorce and separation: Family lawyer answers your most asked questions

PUBLISHED: 16:35 08 September 2020

'We know this is a difficult decision to make, which is why we’ll be here to offer support and guidance every step of the way.' Picture: Getty Images

'We know this is a difficult decision to make, which is why we’ll be here to offer support and guidance every step of the way.' Picture: Getty Images

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The decision to separate or divorce is not an easy one. Where do you start? Who should you talk to? What is involved?

'Write down a list of questions or concerns beforehand, so we can ensure we cover everything important to you.' Picture: Pixabay'Write down a list of questions or concerns beforehand, so we can ensure we cover everything important to you.' Picture: Pixabay

Katharine Scoot, matrimonial lawyer and head of the family law team at HRJ Foreman Laws Solicitors, shares some important tips to help you take the first step.

Q: How do I know if divorce is the right decision for me?

A: My advice to anyone that finds themself in this situation is to take your time. Speak to trusted family and friends and try to gather a support system around you. It may even be worth talking to a counsellor about how you feel, and to help you think about your future.

'No two cases are the same - we'll offer bespoke legal advice and help you reach a fair outcome for everyone.' Picture: Pixabay'No two cases are the same - we'll offer bespoke legal advice and help you reach a fair outcome for everyone.' Picture: Pixabay

Some couples decide to initially separate and will talk to us about a separation agreement. This sets out the financial arrangements while you are separated. It is often the case that, once parties have been separated for either two or five years, they then petition for divorce on the basis of separation without the need to cite a fault, for example adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

Q: What are the first steps to starting legal proceedings?

A: Once you’re certain that a divorce is the right decision for you, find a solicitor that specialises in the areas most important to you, for example child arrangements, matrimonial finances or domestic violence. Then you’ll need to contact them to make your first appointment.

Katharine Scoot, matrimonial lawyer and head of the family law team at HRJ Foreman Laws Solicitors. Picture: HRJ Foreman Laws SolicitorsKatharine Scoot, matrimonial lawyer and head of the family law team at HRJ Foreman Laws Solicitors. Picture: HRJ Foreman Laws Solicitors

Q: How can I prepare for the first meeting with my lawyer?

A: I recommend writing down a list of questions or concerns beforehand, so we can ensure we cover everything that’s important to you. You may want to bring someone with you to the meeting (or during COVID-19 restrictions, have someone who can listen to the conversation on loudspeaker) and scribe for you. It’s easy to forget things when you’re feeling nervous.

To help you get the most from the meeting, come along with a good idea of your financial position - including the value of your home, the outstanding mortgage amount, combined household income, the value of any pensions and any liabilities you may have.

We will also need to know when you got married and how long you have been together. It is helpful, if you have it, to bring a copy of your marriage certificate. If you have children, we’ll note where they go to school, what hours you and your partner work and if they attend any after school clubs. This will help us put together a framework for child arrangements.

Q: What happens after my first meeting?

A: You may want to instruct us to open a file immediately. If this is the case we will follow up the meeting with a letter outlining the options we have discussed and our cost estimate. If you want more time to make your decision, we will wait for you to contact us, as and when you are ready.

Q: Why should I seek professional, legal help?

A: No two cases are the same – we’ll offer bespoke legal advice, that carefully considers your long-term goals and the interests of each party, to reach a fair outcome for everyone. We can help you remain objective and resolve matters as smoothly as possible, keeping the best interests of your family in mind at all times.

To resolve issues where both parties can’t agree, you may wish to work with a mediator, who will help you to reach a consensus together. Once you have a mutually agreed approach, you can then instruct us to make it legally binding.

In complex cases, it can be helpful to adopt a collaborative approach. This can be an effective way to find a consensus. If an agreement cannot be reached through mediation or collaborative law, you may agree to obtain a final decision through arbitration or make an application to the family courts.

Get in touch

Katharine has been practicing family law for 17 years. She specialises in collaborative law, financial resolution, and domestic violence cases. She has helped many divorced and separated couples resolve issues involving childcare, financial disputes, pre-nuptial agreements and more.

HRJ Foreman Laws Solicitors have offices in Hitchin, Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth Garden City.

Visit hrjforemanlaws.co.uk for more information.

Call 01462 458 711 or email info@hrjforemanlaws.co.uk to make an appointment.


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