I have just been petitioned by my wife. We have been separated for about 1 1/2 years.
I need to appoint a solicitor. The offers are from £180 to £400 per hout. I live in London. Does it pay to go for the more expensive solicitors?
The total pot probably doesn't exceed £800k and the kids are over 18. My wife has never held a job and I am earning around £90k/y
Some advice would really be appreciated. I have been reading the forum pages for hours and most of it makes scary reading.
You might want to try to represent yourself? Check out some of the self repping threads, it what I am doing and is not that difficult. Loads of advice on this site and others. Lawyers are variable in the quality of thier advice so cost is not an issue I guess?
Thanks, Peter for the quick reply. I guess for the first part (i.e. degree absolute) it's probably ok but for the ancillary relief process especially the pension stuff it all sounds very convoluted. I want to be fair to my wife but I don't know what that means yet.
But yes, advice taken, I'll read the self repping thread.
The actual divorce is pretty straight-forward and quite separate from the ancillary relief as you have acknowledged. When I was going through this I found that hard to understand (I was still reeling from the shock at the time!). I would not spend hard-earned money on expensive solicitors - the cost seems to differ quite from what I paid which was 200 pound an hour. You don't need a solicitor for the actual divorce - especially if you don't intend to contest it. Just be guided by your wife's solicitor's in what to do - "sign papers and return them!"
With regards to the ancillary relief and being fair - when there are no children involved it does make it easier to sort out. Again no solicitors needed if you can agree - and that has got to be the best way. If pensions involved ask for CETV (Cash Equivalent Transfer Value) this is a good starting point - however as I discovered this value is only a guide and cannot be offset pound for pound against say the equity in a house which is seen as a "liquid asset". The pension value will be seen as an illiquid asset. I wish I had known that at the beginning of making my proposals! Mine ended up at a Final Hearing which was a shame but necessary. The courts tend to start at 50/50 split and work on the facts surrounding the marriage. Look up Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 - this is vital to take note of as this is what the judge will look at - and deal with each point.
However, there is no need to get to a final hearing - all it takes is making fair proposals and drawing up a Consent Order through a solicitor - much simpler and cheaper!
Be good to know how you get on... keep with this site it will help you enormously - I didn't know about it until after the FH!!!
Thanks very much, Elizabeth for the good advice. I want to be fair with my wife without having to start from scratch at 53. I don't know what 'fair' means at the moment. I am ready to split everything down the middle and pay some SM on top because my wife has never worked and at 47 will probably find it difficult getting a job. Not that she is trying very hard. But when I filled in the Divorce Calculator, I felt like committing suicide . I questioned the result and wiki people admitted that the calc is work in progress and I was hoping that some of the solicitors on the net would tell me what a reasonable and fair arrangement would be.
Thanks again for your advice. I will keep you posted and in the meantime I will read up on the matrimonial causes act. Hope it's not written in legalise. Cheers BBL
You sound like you are attempting to be more than fair so I am not sure what the calculator is saying to make you feel like you described!
I have pointed you in the direction of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 because that's exactly what my barrister used as a basis for her "argument". The issue in my case was the equity in the house, after a long marriage, housing needs, needs of the children of the marriage (paramount) in any court/judges eyes (they would be sacked otherwise!) mortgage capacity of both parties - now this is where things may get a bit uncomfortable as you say your wife has not worked - does not mean she is not capable but mortgage capacity and the ability to re-house is quite an issue.
Other thing is the pensions - I wanted to offset his large pension against the equity in the house - still buy him out but for less by giving up any share of his pension (I have a small pension). It was at a late stage and not the advice of MY solicitor - but his, that I discovered this cannot be offset pound for pound. Therefore my proposal would not be seen as fair. Outcome was a pension share and equity in the house share.
End of the day the judge/courts go by the book and it does not really relate to what you can and can't afford - if you knew what mortgage I had as an outcome of this you'd be shocked! It's one of those things that seems where common sense goes out the window and needs must prevails - My child and I would be homeless now if I hadn't done what I have. He (ex) wouldn't care and neither do the courts. After all when they close the heavy files/trial bundles and go home they don't worry about what decision they have made and how it affects people's lives - they really don't believe me.
Every case has to be seen on it's own merits with regard given to all the circumstances. No one s25 MCA 1973 factor is more important than the other. When resources are limited the emphasis is on meeting needs, but with a long marriage when there are more than sufficient resources to meet both parties needs the emphasis shifts towards sharing and there has to be a good reason to depart from sharing 50:50 (White v White).
Spouse maintenance is normally awarded according to the needs of one party and the ability to pay of the other, although these days it isn't necessarily just maintenance eg it can include provision for compensation (McFarlane v McFarlane). It is possible to capitalise SM and pay a sum which will provide an income when invested. An important aspect here is thinking about long term provision for retirement. It's all a balancing exercise.
Personally, unless circumstances are straight forward and it's a short marriage and/or there are no children involved, I would recommend using sol because over several years I've seen too many people doing it themselves and getting in a mess. Sols can stuff up too, but it doesn't appear o be so often or so drastic.
I don't think it necessarily does pay to use more expensive sols. There is at least one 'shark' in London who charges a premium rate that I wouldn't touch with a barge pole. In my case I was offered an initial appointment with an associate of the firm who said normally when there were substantial assets involved the senior partner would deal with the case, but I really couldn't see the point as it was relatively straight forward. For half the hourly rate I got exactly the same service, or better, because the associate could concentrate on her cases rather than running a department.
The secret to keeping costs down is using a sol efficiently by providing complete and accurate information in an organised, intelligible and timely manner. Every letter and phone call costs, so keep them to a minimum and use appointments effectively. Avoid any temptation to use sol as a counsellor. I would say look for a family sol who is sharp, a member of Resolution, offers mediation and/or collaborative law and has a non confrontational approach.