LEGAL CORNER: Acting without a solicitor in family proceedings

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In a recent programme on Radio 4, people described their experiences dealing with divorce and financial claims without the assistance of a solicitor. One man described the experience as “the most stressful of his life”.

How can these situations be avoided or, if they do happen, how can the effects of going to court be made easier?

Firstly, explore all options. Court should be seen as a last resort. Any solicitor instructed must focus on the issues, rather than emotions, which is not easy given the context. However, the approach to a financial settlement is based on the facts and relevant law, rather than what individuals may perceive to be vital.

A cooling off period following an initial separation helps unless there is a pressing reason to move forward quickly. It is usually better to wait until clearer heads prevail. When you have children, inevitably, there will be some connection between parents in the years following. It is in everyone’s best interests that resolving finances does not jeopardise parents and children moving on.

All parties have to share responsibility for this and it is important to find legal representation that assists in resolving financial claims in a way that is fair and cost effective.

Sometimes, however, going to court is the only way to resolve a case if one party will not negotiate or, for example, if there are questions regarding the information provided. Going to court should therefore be seen as an option of last resort, but one which should be taken in appropriate circumstances.

Specialist legal advice is then vital to ensure that the case progresses in a timely way and with the evidence necessary to enable the case to be resolved sooner rather than later through negotiations.

It is important to bear in mind that the costs of going to court cannot always be expressed in terms of the legal fees or indeed the outcome in property terms. You must also consider the emotional and mental cost of going to court and conducting litigation in the adversarial environment.

Arrangements reached consensually are more likely to be perceived as fair and anyone who goes to court must appreciate that by doing so, you are asking a stranger to make a decision and impose their view of what is fair.

If you would like to know more about this please contact James Richards to discuss these issues further.

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Jim Richards,

Family department

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George Ide, LLP

Solicitors of Chichester and Bognor Regis

Telephone 01243 786668

Email: observer@georgeide.co.uk