Published: 17 January 2018
Area of Law: Divorce & Separation
Alternatives to litigation: keeping divorce costs down
Understandably, getting divorced will always be an emotional rollercoaster. In addition to this, with many people failing to understand how solicitor’s fees are calculated or about the various alternatives to litigation available, the financial cost burden can spiral out of control. Even though going forward without legal representation is not a feasible choice for many, there are numerous steps that those involved in a divorce can take to reduce their legal fees and overwhelming court costs.
Streamline the fact-finding
The first phase of a divorce can be extremely expensive, requiring solicitors to rigorously delve into, and comprehend, their client’s situation. A substantial number of calls and emails are frequently exchanged as well as taking time to allow the divorcing parties to cathartically discuss their circumstances during this period of ‘fact-finding’. This procedure can be surprisingly costly with a most lawyers charging by the hour, all adding to the stress already caused by the divorce process.
Is more expensive necessarily better?
Clients pursuing legal representation for a divorce often mistakenly believe that investing in a more expensive solicitor will result in a more successful outcome. Realistically, spending a vast amount of money on representation will ultimately reduce from total assets which the divorcing parties may be entitled to.
Ideally, those involved in a divorce should prioritise solicitors who offer a strong and upfront approach, whilst also specialising in family law. Additionally, to ensure assets are fairly divided and to avoid incurring costs from any expensive delays in the court system, which is discretionary and unstructured, clients should seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Make good use of time
It is also essential for clients to be productive with their time when using a solicitor, in order to prevent legal costs from building up uncontrollably during the divorce process. Moreover, it may be wise for the client to take on administrative tasks such as completing forms and other paperwork themselves rather than hiring a lawyer to do so. These often take up a significant amount of billable time and can often be fulfilled just as successfully by the client. Getting the solicitor to examine paperwork after the client has filled in the key facts of their case themselves would be a more cost-effective tactic.
Exploring other avenues
A range of alternatives to conventional court proceedings are available to help manage legal costs whilst making sure a mutually-satisfactory divorce agreement is reached.
In family mediation, the two divorcing parties meet with a professional mediator who helps the clients talk over their problems whilst supervising discussion. In order to help the clients themselves arrive at a suitable decision, mediators instead supply unbiased information about the divorce process and court proceedings and do not provide legal advice.
Family law arbitration is a second avenue available, which involves assigning the divorcing parties a trained arbitrator. Arbitrators assist clients in reaching a binding decision on any issues from the relationship relating to finance, property or children.
Lastly, in collaborative law, both people involved in the divorce and their lawyers meet to discuss relevant issues and hopefully, to rectify them. Because this procedure requires clients to sign contracts agreeing not to proceed with litigation, it is essential to remember that any unsuccessful efforts to come to an agreement will result in parties to employing new legal representation and starting the whole process again, from the beginning.
Another advantage of mediation and collaborative law is that these methods are exceedingly flexible, allowing the divorcing couples to reach their own agreement in their own timescale.
Avoid hidden surprises
Keeping track of costs is essential and it is always sensible to request that solicitors provide interim bills with a full breakdown of costs, regardless which divorce procedure a couple decides to pursue.
Being cost-effective when engaging lawyers and exploring other alternatives to litigation early on can help keep legal costs at a manageable level. Going through a divorce is never enjoyable and managing expenses can help the process run smoothly, making it as stress-free as possible.