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Your Relationship With your Solicitor

27th January 2014

When your marriage breaks down, the next relationship you should focus on is with your solicitor.

Finding a lawyer you can trust, who you have confidence in and who has empathy to your situation may make all the difference in achieving the outcome you want as you journey towards divorce.

Andrea Hewitson, a family solicitor with BHP Law based in Newcastle, says: "We recognise how scary it can be for clients coming to us for the first time because they are seeking a divorce.

"They have found themselves in a situation they never expected to be in and often don't want to be in. They may be a very private person but now have to lay their personal life on the table. It can be a struggle for some people.

"A good solicitor should not just take instructions from a client but must also give the client the advice that is necessary. They should be objective, but also have empathy and understanding. Divorce isn’t just a legal process; it is generally an emotional experience as well with impacts beyond the parting couple.

“The relationship with your solicitor is very important; you need someone with experience who you can trust."

Andrea is a collaborative lawyer, offering a specific kind of representation. In cases where divorcing parties are splitting amicably or at least can maintain civility, they can sign an agreement not to go to court and instead come together with their own collaborative lawyers to discuss arrangements around the table.

"When parties can cooperate like this it becomes a less traumatic experience, and many people don’t want to have to go in front of a judge. We are very lucky in the North East to also have trained family consultants who can assist and keep the parties focused," adds Andrea.

Of course collaborative law may be unrealistic for other couples, with arguments over money, assets and children the most common sources of conflict. Court remains the only option for couples who cannot come to agreement.

‘With finances you have to look not only at what you have, but also at what you don’t have. Your solicitor will need to delve into all your financial matters,” explains Andrea.

“It can come as a shock to some people to find out the levels of debt they’ve been carrying as a couple and that, once your home is sold and the mortgage repaid, you may be left with very little or nothing.

“This can be frightening, but we help people to work through that and come out at the other end.”

Mismanagement of assets can be one of the conflicts cited as unreasonable behaviour, one of the five circumstances that must be proven in the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. The others are adultery, two years separation with agreement, two years desertion or five years separation.

Unreasonable behaviour can include a whole range of actions from mental or physical abuse to everyday irritants that build up over time.

Andrea says the decision to divorce can be sparked by one incident that finally pushes one party over the edge, or can come after a signifcant event, such as a holiday, Christmas or a child’s birthday, they have been waiting to pass before seeking a divorce.

“The time to do it is only right when you feel ready,” says Andrea. “Nobody should force you into divorce, and people should remember they can step back from it at any time. That said, in my experience the percentage of people who change their mind is very low – once you’ve embarked down that road it’s not often that people turn back.”

For advice on divorce, contact Andrea or any of the family law team at BHP Law on 0800 590019 or visit us at your local office in either Newcastle, Durham, Darlington or Stockton in Teesside.