Stepping over the threshold of your divorce lawyer can be a nerve-wracking process but it needn’t be. That’s if you follow this guide.
Always speak to your solicitor before your meeting. Don’t simply speak to a secretary to book the appointment.
My practice is to suggest to a client on the ‘phone that they prepare a timeline or potted chronology of their relationship. This is particularly relevant for financial relief on divorce. So what goes into such a document? As well as the obvious dates of marriage, separation and children’s birth dates, you should set out any pre-marital cohabitation as, if it is seamlessly joined to the marriage, it effectively lengthens it. Other items for inclusion might be injections of capital, inheritances, redundancies and loans from third parties.
I also ask prospective clients to jot down a list of questions that they want dealt with at the meeting. This means that you don’t leave the meeting wishing you had asked something.
Sometimes clients ask what should they bring with them. Matrimonial clients should bring with them the original of their marriage certificate or a certified copy. All clients should bring with them relevant “know your client” material to include proof of identity and address, passport, driving licence and recent utility bill.
Where you have had a solicitors’ letter on the part of your partner or spouse, bring that with you too.
Some clients want to bring with them a friend for moral support. Each to their own but remember that you might be less candid if accompanied.
You will be asked about your relationship and what led to its breakdown. Matrimonial clients should bear in mind that resolution of finances is based on mutual full and frank financial disclosure. The sooner that you can start collating documents establishing your income, expenditure, capital, pensions and liabilities the better but it is not necessary for the first meeting.
You will be advised about the various methods of dispute resolution. As well as the court route, there are other options such as mediation, collaborative law, arbitration and private FDRs (financial dispute resolution hearings).
You will be told about costs. You will not just be given the hourly rate but also estimates for the work you instruct us to do. Any costs estimates will be confirmed in writing.