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Your options for legal or financial advice on divorce or dissolution

Do you need a solicitor to get divorced or dissolve your civil partnership?

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To legally end your marriage or civil partnership, you’ll need to go through the formal divorce or dissolution process.

But you can do this yourself with limited or no legal help.

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Should you get professional help and advice?

You don’t need to use a solicitor or other professional when you sort out the finances. Instead, you can decide between the two of you what you’d like to do.

But many couples do get legal advice from professionals, even if it’s only a one-off meeting with a solicitor or a mediator.

Various professional advisers can help you. You might find that one approach is better suited to your needs – and budget – than another.

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Using a mediator

A mediator can help you and your ex-partner (husband, wife or civil partner) agree about children and money, including pensions, property, savings and investments.

They don’t take sides or give advice – instead, they help couples work towards an agreement.

Many family lawyers are also trained mediators.

Mediation works best where couples trust each other to be open and honest.

If you and your ex-partner can’t talk about who should look after the children or how you’ll divide your money, mediation might not be right for you.

It’s also not appropriate where there’s been domestic violence or where one partner is controlling or intimidating. A mediator will tell you whether your situation is suitable for mediation.

If you’re divorcing in England or Wales, you now have to attend one mediation session. This is to assess whether it’s is suitable for you, before you can apply to the court to resolve any issues about children or money.

This is called a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting.

In Northern Ireland, you need to have been married for two years before you can petition for divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership.

Pros and cons of mediation

  • It can be quicker and cheaper than a traditional lawyer-led divorce or dissolution. And couples can feel more in control of the agreement.
  • It’s flexible, so you can use it to agree some areas of your divorce or dissolution but not others.
  • All sessions are confidential. That means if you can’t reach agreement and go to court, your solicitor can’t use what’s been said in the sessions.
  • Mediators can’t give legal advice. That means it’s important to see a solicitor before you start mediation so you know your rights. You also need a solicitor to draw up a legal agreement formalising anything you’ve agreed.
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How much is a mediator?

A Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting usually costs about £100-£200. If you need more sessions, they cost more. And fees can vary depending on where you live.

Find out more about fees on the Family Mediation Council website

You might be able to get legal aid to help pay mediation costs, but it is means-tested.

Making the agreement legally binding

At the end of mediation, you’ll get a document showing what you agreed. This agreement is not legally binding.

If you want a legally binding agreement you need to draft a consent order and get a court to approve it. The consent order can be based on what you agreed in mediation.

Using a solicitor

A solicitor can give you advice on your rights, responsibilities and entitlements.

You can use them to:

  • help you with the divorce or dissolution forms and paperwork
  • apply an agreement you’ve reached independently with your ex-partner
  • negotiate on your behalf with your ex-partner’s solicitor, and through the courts if necessary
  • give you independent legal advice. For example, if you’re negotiating a settlement through mediation or at the start of your process if you’re doing a do-it-yourself divorce or dissolution.

Pros and cons of using a solicitor

  • A solicitor might give you information about your financial entitlement that you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. If your ex-partner won’t negotiate with you, using a solicitor might be more effective than trying to sort it out directly. Most solicitors offer fixed-fee services or capped rates, which can be cost effective.
  • A solicitor can be very expensive, although costs will vary depending on the law firm, where it’s based and how complicated your divorce or dissolution is.

You can find a solicitor:

Using arbitration

In family arbitration, you and your partner choose an arbitrator. They decide on financial and property disputes, or some child-related issues. The decision will be final and binding.

Family arbitration helps couples going through family breakdown to resolve disputes confidentially – in a way that’s quicker, more flexible and less formal than a courtroom.

Find out more about arbitration on the Resolution website

Using a collaborative family lawyer

Collaborative family lawyers can help you reach agreement through a series of meetings with your ex-partner. You and your ex-partner each hire your own collaborative family lawyer.

  • You all sign an agreement not to go to court.
  • You agree to work together to resolve the issues between you.
  • Meetings are usually face-to-face with all four of you present. During the coronavirus situation, many of these are via video conferencing.

Pros and cons of collaborative family law

  • Couples often feel more positive about an agreement reached through collaborative family law than a traditional lawyer-led divorce or dissolution because they have been directly involved in negotiations. Collaborative family lawyers can work with accountants or pension specialists if needed.
  • It can be more expensive than a traditional lawyer-led divorce or dissolution (depending on how much a couple can agree between them). If couples can’t reach agreement through collaborative family law and take their dispute to court, new solicitors would have to be appointed, which would add to the costs.
  • It works best if you and your ex-partner live near each other or can easily get to the face-to-face meetings. It might be difficult to find a collaborative family lawyer if you live in a rural location.

You can find a collaborative family lawyer:

Using an accountant

You can use an accountant to value assets – for example, a business.

Some accountants specialise in assessing whether someone is hiding their assets – usually property, a business or investments – or downplaying the value of a business they own. They’re called ‘forensic accountants’.

Pros and cons of using an accountant

  • The right accountant will be expert in valuing businesses, which a lawyer would not usually have experience of doing.
  • The costs can be high, especially for a forensic accountant. Even if they can show that assets have been hidden, forcing your partner to release those assets might cost more than the assets are worth.

You can find a chartered accountant:

Using an actuary

An actuary is a specialist who can provide an accurate valuation of a final salary or other salary-related pension.

Working out the true value of these pensions can be complicated. It’s not something a family law solicitor would be able to do.

Pros and cons of using an actuary

  • Useful for valuing pensions that can be complicated to assess.
  • The costs can be high.
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Using a financial adviser

A financial adviser can help you to divide your assets in the most tax-efficient way. They can also advise you on investing the proceeds of a divorce or dissolution settlement.

Pros and cons of using a financial adviser

  • Specialist advice might be valuable in financially-complex divorce or dissolution cases.
  • It will add to the overall costs of divorce or dissolution.
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To find financial advisers based in England or Wales who are accredited as experts in divorce or dissolution, see the Resolution website

Get help from The Pensions Advisory Service

If you’re thinking about getting divorced and you’re confused about what this might mean for your pension, we have a free service to review your options by phone.

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When you get a divorce or dissolution, there will be costs. You might qualify for help to pay towards them.

If you do have to pay fees alone, and don’t have savings or income to cover them, find out what your options are in our How to pay legal fees on divorce or dissolution guide.

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Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

Continue to website
Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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