We are frequently asked by clients, “Do I need to see a solicitor?”
Most clients find that the information they receive at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is very worthwhile. They will be clear about what legal aid is available and they are given information to help them to decide how to move forward.
Legal advice is not given in a mediation process but it has become more common for the services of solicitors to be “unbundled”. Instead of a solicitor receiving instructions to act on your behalf and charge at the solicitor’s hourly rate, many solicitors offer a fixed fee service for specific pieces of work. Supporting a client in a mediation process can be done in several ways. For example, a solicitor could charge a fixed fee to include preparing the divorce application, applying for decree nisi and decree absolute and advising on the process. Family Mediation North East works in partnership with several firms in Northumberland that offer Mediation Legal Packages.
How much can you afford to spend on fees and advice?
First of all there will be court fees to pay. Not all courts can deal with family cases. You can find the full list of courts, and information about what work they do, online at or by phoning your local court.
These are examples of marriage and civil partnership proceedings fees:-
• Filing an application for a divorce, nullity or civil partnership - £550
• Application for a financial order, other than by consent – £255
• Application by consent for a financial order –£50
There are several options when it comes to paying for advice. These are examples of using a solicitor to give a fixed fee for specific pieces of work:-
When you may only need limited legal advice/assistance:
If all of the following points apply to you, or if you have successfully concluded a financial mediation process - then you may only need to consult solicitors to ensure that your settlement is made legally binding.
You have no children or no disagreements at all about the children
You are both working and are capable of being financially independent
You are fully aware of your joint financial situation
You are confident that your spouse doesn't have bank accounts, shares or properties that you don't know about
You are already agreed on how to split the finances and are both happy with that agreement
Uncontested Divorce and Agreed Finances
If a couple is fully agreed on all matters and want the lowest cost solution:-
One party can complete the Divorce application form and the other receives the court paperwork and responds.
If neither felt the need for legal advice on the divorce itself, they can agree to a simple clean break financial agreement preventing any future claims for assets or maintenance from each other.
One can pay a solicitor to draft a Consent Order. The other can pay a solicitor to check the document, before signing the financial agreement.
The solicitor costs are low and the court fees of the person applying for the divorce and consent order total £600 (or less if the person applying is eligible to ask the court for a fee reduction or remission because of their low income). There are cost packages offered by solicitors to achieve this.
Uncontested Divorce and Mediated Finances
If the parties need assistance to reach their own agreement on finances they can attend mediation to find a fair solution. They will be assessed as to whether they are financially eligible for legal aid, and if they are eligible there is nothing at all to pay. If only one of them is eligible, the other will receive substantial assistance with the costs, as their initial information and assessment meeting and the first session of mediation will be paid for by The Legal Aid Agency (LAA).
They will both receive helpful information and typically will reach an agreement after 3 sessions.
They can engage a solicitor to give them legal advice between the mediation sessions if necessary, and then the documents achieved in mediation (the Open Financial Statement or OFS and the Memorandum of Understanding or MOU) can be converted to a consent order by the solicitors. For a party eligible for legal aid the LAA will make a contribution to the costs of £150 and a further £200 if the solicitor is preparing the consent order.
It is probably helpful to consult a solicitor early on in your divorce if any of the following apply:
You feel that your financial situation has unusual complications
You feel you are in a vulnerable financial position compared to your spouse
There are any domestic violence or abuse issues
You are not confident with paperwork
You are unsure whether you can decide what is fair financially
You have disagreements over child issues that you have been unable to resolve
Many of your assets - and particularly the property you live in - are held in your spouse’s name only
Your spouse is threatening to exclude you from the house - or to cut you off financially
Most solicitors will be comfortable to discuss the various options and some are now also very helpfully showing the respective costs in the packages they offer on their websites. For more information about how to find a local solicitor please visit our Advice and Support Page.
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