Nicola Williams

Family Law Solicitor

law for families ~ made easier

Divorce – when you don’t agree

This page is for situations where splitting up

isn’t amicable from the outset; or

becomes more contentious as time goes on.

As I’ve discussed before, the vast majority of divorces are uncontested – 95%.

Over half of those don’t have a court ordered financial agreement.

Instead people rely on oral agreements or a less formal written agreement (as I explain here).

Some people have no assets and each party just goes their own way with no agreement at all.

But those statistics aren’t the full story.

Amongst the (slightly more than 50% of) people who don’t get a formal agreement, there are those who simply can’t afford to. There are also those who are too scared of their spouse and those who are too distressed to face the negotiation.

So, if you are reading online all about how ‘easy’ it is to have a financial agreement and are feeling a sense of despair, don’t think for a moment that you are alone.

For a significant number of people, divorce isn’t remotely amicable at all. It’s mean and resentful and it hurts.

The question is, who can help you best in that situation? A mediator, a solicitor, a barrister, or a friend?

Getting divorce advice

There are many options for advice in a divorce and it seems everyone claims to be an expert.

The reality is often somewhat different. What makes a person an expert? Training and experience. So when you are looking for an expert to help you, start by checking what training they have had, where they gained their experience and over how long.

Where to look for a mediator

Start on the family mediation council website. You don’t have to choose a regulated mediator but you will find lots of really useful information on their pages anyway. And it will help you know what to look out for and how to choose the person you want to work with.

Regulated mediators have a proven track record of training and supervised experience.

For advice on the law

Choose a solicitor or barrister as opposed to a self-proclaimed legal expert. You can find a solicitor on the Law Society website and a barrister on the Bar Council website.

This is why you should choose a recognised professional legal service:

Solicitors and barristers have many years of compulsory legal training before they are allowed to work unsupervised.

They hold professional indemnity insurance from specialist legal services insurers in case anything goes wrong. This is not the same as the general public liability insurance that unregulated divorce businesses have. If a business isn’t regulated and authorised to provide legal advice, it cannot be insured to offer it. It is a very tightly controlled part of the insurance market. Solicitors are insured for at least £2million per claim;

There is a code of practise for barristers and solicitors that is recognised by the courts, local authorities, pension providers, banks and more. Unprofessional behaviour can be punished. Some unregulated firms have set up their own supervisory bodies you can complain to. But, as anyone who had ever had a private parking ticket will tell you, these aren’t always as they seem.

Conducting litigation is reserved to authorised bodies such as firm of solicitors and barristers’ chambers. It is actually an offence to conduct litigation (e.g. an application for financial provision on divorce) if you are not authorised to do so.

Other services

Divorce and relationship therapists, financial advisers, life coaches and financial advisers are all useful to a greater and lesser extent depending on your personal choice, needs and budget.

But it is beyond the scope of this page to deal with them all.

I will focus on the 3 main roles that you are likely to deal with in a contested application for a financial order.

What does a divorce solicitor do?

Plenty of divorce solicitors will offer a free initial consultation to explain what they do and how much they charge.

I offer free initial consultations to do exactly that.

I’ve been advising people on divorce options for the last 30 years.

I advise on what the divorces laws can do for you if you can’t agree on how to divide your finances yourselves.

If appropriate I signpost to mediation and to any other services that might be helpful. For example, relationship therapists, financial advisers, valuers, debt management agencies, the benefits agency and so on.

Your divorce solicitor acts as a kind of hub for all sorts of ancillary services, but primarily is a legal advice service. Divorce solicitors advise on law and legal procedure. They prepare for contested litigation and also draft legally binding agreements.

So there are two main situations where you would seek advice from a divorce solicitor:

to prepare a legally binding financial agreement for you; or

to help you apply to court for a financial order when you can’t agree.

The role of a mediator in contested proceedings

Generally speaking the role of a mediator in contested proceedings is more limited. By the time you’ve reached the stage where you’ve applied for a court order, one or both of you is simply less likely to want to go to mediation.

Having said that, it should only be ruled out in cases where there is domestic violence, where one party is vulnerable or there is a significant power imbalance.

For all other situations, even if you are in the midst of bitterly contested divorce proceedings, mediation can be helpful in narrowing the issues or even break down the obstacles altogether that are preventing agreement.

If you manage to agree at any stage, the proceedings are compromised. That is less stressful in the long run and is usually cheaper.

But what if you just can’t agree?

Going to court

Generally speaking, a solicitor deals face to face more often with the client. A solicitor also handles the case management.

In contested proceedings, this means issuing applications, drafting statements and other paperwork, making sure everyone is served, advising on the law, making offers to settle and instructing other experts, valuers and so on.

A barrister will usually be brought in by the solicitor to deal with advocacy, at least for the final hearing.

Whilst many solicitors also conduct all their own advocacy very well, it is a specialist skill learnt by spending most of your time in court – and in a divorce there is a lot of office based work. So it’s normal to have both a solicitor and a barrister in a contested divorce.

Can I bring a friend?

We all lean on our best friends in difficult times. They listen, hug you when you cry and cheer you up when you’re down. They care. And when you’re going through and acrimonious separation, it’s really important to know someone still cares about you.

Unless your friend also happens to be a divorce solicitor, barrister or mediator, they probably shouldn’t be relied upon for legal advice – even if they’ve also been through a divorce themselves. In fact, perhaps especially not then.

However, I encourage people to bring a friend to a meeting or court hearing. They can’t be in the hearing itself but they absolutely can be there for support, before and afterwards.

The application to court

So, now we know who does what, I will explain how an application for a financial order is made and progresses through the court system. And of course how much that is likely to cost

Free consultations

If you would like to know more about what I can do to help you with your divorce, get in touch using the form below.

Arrange a free consultation about a divorce consent order

Arrange a free consultation about a divorce consent order

Thank you for your interest in my consent order service. If you let me have the information requested below, I will do my best come back to you within 1 working day, Monday to Friday excluding public holidays. to arrange a free initial consultation.

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Please let me have a little background so that I can a) identify whether I can help you and b) send you information for an alternative services if it seems more appropriate.

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Nicola Williams Solicitor
Solicitors regulation authority
Nicola Williams is a member of Resolution

Nicola is happy to announce that she will be joining Taylor Rose MW on 12th July 2022 as a consultant solicitor