When can you share a divorce lawyer?
In our first article for ASP by an expert, The Divorce Surgery writes, ‘’When can you share a divorce lawyer ?’
Amongst the many unhelpful myths about divorce is the idea that divorces where both parties instruct separate lawyers are always ‘bitter’ and likewise that separating couples using just one lawyer must be ‘amicable’. Neither is true. As we have written many times elsewhere, given that 42% of marriages end this way, divorce is an important but ultimately commonplace life change. It is unnecessary and unhelpful to apply labels to yourself at the start of such a difficult process. However they access legal advice, couples should instead be asking themselves: can we work constructively, despite our differences? Can we be kind? Can we be patient?
It is fair to say that answering those questions positively will usually be more difficult where two separate legal teams are involved, however. Why? Because by default and from Day 1 you will be in an adversarial situation. Your individually-instructed lawyer is there to act in his or her client’s best interests. The primary focus is not on what you as a family might want, or what might be fair for each of you. This is not the lawyers’ fault, it is simply the structure they have to work within. As a family going through that process, communication and transparency are the first casualties: you are not allowed to know what advice your spouse is receiving, unless he or she chooses to reveal all. And once lost, trust is hard to rebuild.
Of course there will always be cases where it is necessary and right that separate lawyers should be instructed. In particular we have written elsewhere about the need for urgent independent legal advice in cases where for example domestic abuse is a relevant issue, or where there is genuine concern that one of you is attempting to conceal assets from the court, or where there is a dispute about whether England & Wales is even the right jurisdiction.
But those cases are thankfully rare. Joint legal advice such as our multi-award winning One Couple One Lawyer service is suitable for the vast majority of separating couples, and as The Times reported last month has become a fixture of the legal landscape
Our clients at The Divorce Surgery come in all shapes and sizes, from those who are barely communicating to those who have simply realised that ‘marriage’ no longer works for them. Our online induction form contains a tool for you to let us know how well, or badly, you are getting on. This provides us with useful context prior to your first meeting with us, which we can use to tailor our approach, putting your needs and concerns first. But ultimately, how amicable a couple is has little to do with the many significant benefits of taking joint legal advice.
We find that couples want to be supported to move on, secure in the knowledge that they are making sensible decisions for their future, informed by high quality legal advice that looks at the situation from the point of view of the whole family, rather than just from the perspective of a wife, or husband. After all, that is what a judge would do. Deciding to take joint legal advice together also reinforces the vital point that divorce is ultimately a shared problem, requiring shared solutions. It keeps lines of communication open, allowing both parties to separate with dignity, bringing with it better prospects for their future relationship – and above all, better outcomes for any children involved.
And although not the subject of this blog, it should not be forgotten that joint legal advice is also considerably cheaper than instructing a lawyer each. See more on this in: All You Need to Know About the Financial Cost of Getting Divorced. We operate a fixed fee process, so you know in advance and before you commit what your total bill will be.
It’s so important to raise awareness that divorce doesn’t have to be a race to the bottom. So, next time a friend or a relative tells you that a divorce is going to be bitter, remember: have they considered joint legal advice? During Covid-19 we are offering Introductory Sessions with our expert barristers, who will be happy to talk through the process entirely free of charge.
Amicability really isn’t the issue. What is necessary is a shared commitment to working constructively, with each other and with us. Email [email protected] or call on 0203 488 4475.
The Divorce Surgery gives separating couples expert legal advice together: