What clients might be suitable for the One Solicitor: One Couple process (also known as Solicitor Neutral or Resolution Together)? I’m delighted to be joined in this blog by Dr Angharad Rudkin, a child psychologist, author and creator of the What...
Divorce and separation are overwhelming events. The choices about how to deal with a divorce or separation are just as overwhelming. As mentioned elsewhere on this website, do try to take the time to deal with the emotional fall out from your break up. It’s really not easy. If you are the leaver (the one that ended the relationship) or the left - there will be feelings and tensions. A family consultant or counsellor can really help you move forward at this difficult time. I can help you work out what legal process will help you best and be most appropriate in your particular circumstances.
Unlike other solicitors, I don’t offer the traditional legal route.
What is the traditional legal route and why you should avoid it?
The writing of letters to your ex or their solicitor is a standard tool for a lawyer and one they will often feel most comfortable drafting and sending out. We call the letters and emails we write, ‘correspondence’.
But there are very serious problems with this approach.
We really need to consider what happens when a legal letter is written and even more importantly how they are received.
What most people don’t realise is the enormous cost attached to instructing solicitors to ‘write a letter’ and act for them in a traditional way. The cost is financial, emotional and will very likely, negatively, affect the future of your family.
The financial cost
This example shows how the costs mount up; let’s say a lawyer charges £280 per hour + VAT.
- Meeting with the client to take instructions on the letter: 1 hour - £280 + VAT
- Preparing a draft letter: 1 hour (sometimes more, sometimes less) - £280 + VAT
- Emailing letter to client for the client to check: 1 email - £28 + VAT
- Client emailing back with their amendments: 1 email in - £14 + VAT
- Solicitor making amendments: 18 minutes - £84 + VAT
- Solicitor emailing back with draft for checking: 1 email out - £28 + VAT
- Client emailing back to confirm the letter may be sent: £14 + VAT
- Solicitor sending the letter: £28 + VAT
Estimated cost - £756 + VAT of £151.20 = £907.
At this point remember, absolutely nothing has changed but you have spent a lot of money and time on it.
The receiving party (your ex) then spends the same to reply. Or even worse, they reply themselves and you accrue costs whilst your ex responds - probably inappropriately - to me, your solicitor!
It’s unlikely that everything will have been resolved in just 2 letters. Inevitably, there will be a game of ‘ping pong’ with letters flying to and fro - and all the time the costs are soaring.
Pulling apart rather than bringing together
These letters may sadly but successfully polarise you; often ending up in court. Instead, there may have been scope to make things better, see above.
Together: to help sort out what might suit you I have a special meeting for you and your ex to attend together. I call this an ‘options meeting’ (see Pricing). I won’t just discuss the options, which are set out below but I’ll also recommend a course of action that matches your circumstances. I won’t try to shoe horn you into a process that suits me, rather than you.
On your own: if you’d prefer to see me alone that’s fine too. I offer a fixed fee (see Pricing) meeting to go through your legal rights and responsibilities and go through and advice what will be the best way to sort things out.
How to sort things out? What are your options?
This website and all of the work we do together is about avoiding court.
One Solicitor: One Couple - this is where I help you both by giving you joint best interests’ advice. See the page about the solicitor neutral role for more details.
Mediation - as your mediator I bring together all the information you need to make decisions about your financial settlement and a parenting plan if you have children.
Hybrid Mediation - where solicitors are already involved or you are in mediation with me already. The solicitors are with you and I in mediation and this can be helpful as it cuts down on time and complications arising from lack of contemporaneous advice.
Child Inclusive Mediation - a specially trained mediator talks and listens to your child(ren). Usually, but not always, the Child Inclusive Mediator will be separate to your mediator or hybrid mediator. They report back to you what the child (if the child consents) thinks.
Collaborative practice - where I and your ex’s especially trained lawyer work together to help you both sort things out; we will never work against each other or try to ‘win’; we will not be tactical. We give our legal advice openly (known as waiving legal privilege). That way you know what each other’s cases are and can work out a way forward. We lawyers are contractually obliged not to go to court with you; this is a positive as it binds everyone to making it work.
Round table meetings - I and your ex’s lawyers meet ‘around the table’ or online together. We will, where possible, sign a principled or ethical meeting agreement to make sure you can get the best out of it (rather than posturing and positioning).
Arbitration - you and your ex simply can’t make a decision on one or all issues. Then you need a decision maker. Sadly, most people at the moment would issue an application at court to ask a Judge to adjudicate. The court is not a good option. I can help you use Arbitration to ask the Arbitrator to make the decision for you.
Arb-Med (Arbitration-Mediation) - this is a combination of Arbitration and Mediation. The order is important. First, you’d instruct an Arbitrator (see Arbitration) who would direct that you attend mediation. Most people sort everything out in mediation with me but if some things (or sometimes all things) aren’t resolved I will help you revert to the Arbitrator to make a decision for you.
Early Neutral Evaluation - sometimes, it’s very helpful to ask (or instruct) a neutral person to tell you (in person/Zoom or in writing) what might happen if the court was asked to make a decision on your situation (case). It can be creatively used to give an overview of what the law is in a particular area. This neutral person is usually a senior barrister, KC, solicitor or ex-Judge. My role would be to prepare all the information to get the best results for the Early Neutral Evaluator. This is often used in mediation, solicitor neutral, collaborative or round table.
Private FDR Judging
This is more formal than a straightforward Early Neutral Evaluation and will usually mimic the court procedure. The process allows you to either step away from the court process (just for this hearing) or you could have a Private FDR once you have all the financial information to hand in other processes (even traditional letter writing). Unless you agree otherwise, it’s not legally binding and any discussions cannot be used in any further court action or in Arbitration. [Although your offers to settle can be used in court later - so must be sensible and reasonable or risk costs orders against you].
There are plenty of ways that I can help you avoid court and help you have the healthiest separation possible. Let’s talk about what you feel most comfortable with.