When facing a family problem it is natural to want to talk to a friend or relative but often you will need expert legal advice as well as a friendly ear.
Many people want initial advice about their options. It may be some time later before you are ready to take action.
You may feel confident about taking the first steps on your own but many people feel that even if they are prepared to start, for example, divorce proceedings themselves they want assistance in sorting out their children’s arrangements or their financial division but are often concerned about approaching a solicitor because of worries about the potential costs. If you do wish legal assistance but think you cannot afford it, or would prefer not to pay for comprehensive representation from a solicitor, there are a various ways forward available.
Family Mediation – this is where you both attend with a family mediator to attempt to resolve your children’s arrangements or financial division by agreement. If you do not like the thought of being in the same room with your ex you could ask the mediator if it is possible to have shuttle mediation. This means you would stay in separate rooms and the mediator would shuttle back and forth between the two of you to discuss your respective positions with a view to achieving a resolution. If mediation is successful and you enter into a mediation agreement, you can subsequently seek advice from a solicitor only on the aspects of that agreement and preparing a Court order to reflect that agreement.
Roundtable Meeting – if you do not like the idea of negotiating with your ex at mediation without your solicitor present to advise you could, alternatively, ask your solicitor to set up a roundtable meeting where you and your solicitor and your ex and their solicitor meet to discuss the issues whether in relation to your children’s arrangements or your financial division or both. At the end of this meeting if an agreement is reached, similar to the procedure with a mediation agreement, your solicitor can prepare a Court order to reflect that agreement.
Collaborative law- again, if you do not like the idea of negotiating with your ex without your solicitor present to advise you could instruct a collaborative lawyer who will arrange a meeting with your ex and his collaborative lawyer (and possibly other experts) to achieve a resolution by agreement. It would be necessary in this case for you both to instruct collaborative lawyers.
Unbundled services – you can represent yourself but if there is a piece of work you do not feel confident about such as preparing a statement for Court or attending a Court hearing you can instruct a solicitor just to do that piece of work.
Full representation – in this case a solicitor would represent you throughout your case and negotiate with your ex or their solicitor for you and, if necessary, commence Court proceedings and represent you at Court. Sometimes this is the only way you achieve the best result.
In summary there is no “right” time to instruct a solicitor but most solicitor offer free initial appointments and so if you believe you would benefit from advice why not arrange an intial appointment to discuss your options before making a decision.