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It is sometimes possible to have a DIY divorce if there are few complications (see DIY divorce pages), such as if it is to be undefended and the finances are relatively straightforward. However, in many cases there will be little common ground, added to uncertainties over children, which makes the consultation of a solicitor a course of action to be recommended. Good legal advice early on can also prevent matters becoming overly complicated, with the benefit of experience being made available in determining whether or not a proposed settlement would be regarded as fair by a Court. A solicitor will be able to handle the divorce procedure, help in reaching a settlement over finances and property as well as arrangements for children, as well as putting in place legally binding agreements in respect of such arrangements. In addition, a solicitor will be able to get financial information from your spouse or partner that may otherwise not be forthcoming.

It may be possible to sort out your affairs through the use of a mediator, some solicitors being trained mediators. If a solution can be found through a mediator and the mediator is not a solicitor, it may still be advisable to consult a solicitor to ensure any agreement is legally binding and that you are not giving up any legal rights to which you may be entitled.

Choosing a solicitor can be a daunting task given the number of firms and the variety of services each offers. Asking friends and associates for a recommendation will probably help you in the selection process. You should however be aware of the limitations of such a recommendation should your own personal circumstances be significantly different to those of the person making the recommendation.

It may be that you have used a solicitor in relation to other services such as conveyancing. In this case you should enquire as to whether there is an expert within the practice who specialises in divorce and family matters. Another source of information would be Law Society regional directories. These list firms of solicitors by area and show the categories of work each can undertake and are to be found in local libraries, Court Offices and the local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Resolution (formerly Solicitors Family Law Association) is another good source of specialists in family and matrimonial matters. It is an association of over 4,000 solicitors who agree to a Code of Practice covering relationships with clients, dealing with other solicitors, dealing with parties not represented by a solicitor, court proceedings, children and when the client is a child. The code is meant to be flexible and is intended to help parties reach a settlement in a conciliatory and positive manner rather than through aggressive legal action.

To assist in finding help, the Community Legal Advice was set up by the Government and consists of a database of over 15,000 legal service providers in the UK searchable by postcode.

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau will also be able to provide you with the names of local solicitors. Some solicitors have arrangements with the CAB that such referrals will be given the first interview free of charge.

Having made contact with a solicitor and arranged an initial interview, you should be aware that time spent on your case will now begin to accrue costs. It is therefore important that you take with you as much information as possible in order to make the most efficient use of time. See below for information that should be taken to that first appointment and also our checklists.

It may be that the solicitor will send to you a questionnaire in advance of that first meeting which may also list information that will be required. It will probably include the following (sometimes such information is not initially available but will be required in due course):

Personal Information

  • Your name, address and telephone number, the name of your spouse or partner (including their address if different to your own) and the names and ages of your children

  • Your occupation and that of your spouse together with your work telephone number if applicable
  • Whether there are any children in the household who are not children of the marriage.
  • The names and addresses of each child's school
  • Whether you or your spouse has previously been married, if so, the dates of the marriage and of the decree absolute
  • If you and your spouse/partner have already separated, the date and a brief note of the circumstances.
  • A copy of any correspondence with or from the Child Support Agency

Documentation


  • A copy of any correspondence with or from the Child Support Agency
  • Any correspondence that may have been received already, such as from your spouse's solicitor
  • Your marriage certificate
  • Court Orders which may have been made in respect of the current or any previous marriages, and/or any orders that have been made in respect of the children


Financial Circumstances


  • Your own and your spouse's or partner's income

  • The address of your home, together with an estimate of its current value and of any loans secured against it (you should also include the name and address of the lender)
  • Details of any other assets together with an estimate of their current value
  • Details of any debts which may exist, including their value and to whom they are payable