Each January while I am waiting for the stampede of new clients, I take the time to consider the qualities of the perfect divorce client. I have come up with the following list of attributes:
- Someone who has already worked through the loss and grief caused by the breakup of their marriage and has reached the stage of acceptance.
Emotions are often the driver in the divorce process and the angrier and hurt a client is the more likely that the divorce will be acrimonious. It is also more likely that an angry client will be dissatisfied with the eventual outcome, as the divorce is simply unwanted.
I regularly refer clients to professional counsellors and family therapists who can help tremendously. However, clients often deny the need for professional help which results in their angst being worked within the divorce process.
- Someone who is willing to keep open the lines of communication with their spouse.
The most satisfying divorce outcomes are achieved in cases where, following legal advice from their solicitors, clients are able to discuss and agree arrangements concerning their children and finances together. When clients are not pressured into a deal by solicitors or forced to comply with an order imposed by the court, the outcome tends to be more readily accepted. As it is not always possible for clients to effectively communicate with their spouse, pursuing mediation or engaging in the collaborative law process (i.e. mediation with solicitors present) are the best alternative options available to them. Moore & Tibbits offers the collaborative process and work alongside several good mediators.
- Someone who has already conducted some financial research into their particular situation.
Surprisingly solicitors are not usually miracle workers and so whenever a client walks through the door with unrealistic expectations, that client is likely to become disillusioned by the process. Whilst part of the solicitor’s role is to manage client’s expectations if a client has already begun to investigate their maximum earning potential, entitlement to top up benefits, their mortgage capacity and how much alternative accommodation will cost, the initial meeting is already on a realistic footing. As is often the case that a client has not investigated their situation, I will have to refer them to IFA’s, tax accountants, or pension actuaries to assist in the process. It is only after this information becomes available that the investigations being conducted as to their spouse’s financial situation can be used to pursue a favourable settlement.
- Someone who is mindful that the more they argue with their spouse through solicitors the more it will cost them.
Clients will often say that solicitors are expensive but it does not stop them arguing about minutia. Moore and Tibbits offers fixed fees for various aspects of the divorce and financial settlement process but certain tasks fall outside the fixed fee. I recently had a case where my client was arguing about a £350 payment from his spouse, between telephone calls and letters to the other side he incurred charges of almost double the £350. For this client it was the principle that was important. Clients need to be pragmatic and be ready to negotiate and settle. Legal aid for all but very limited cases which involve domestic violence has gone. There are a few companies which offer funding arrangements to cover matrimonial legal fees upfront repayable from the client’s eventual settlement. These funding arrangements however tend to be quite expensive. As such, unless clients have high levels of disposable income or relations willing to help, arguing without being mindful of the fact that this lessens the final settlement ultimately received is short-sighted.
- Someone who tells me the truth and not the edited version which hides information.
Clients sometimes think that it is ingenious to conceal pertinent information that they think may work against them believing that their spouse and solicitor will never find out. The truth invariably comes out and when this happens in the middle of court proceedings it will adversely affect the outcome. Clients who conceal information are unwittingly sabotaging their own case as it does not allow me to do my job properly.
- Someone who takes the advice they are paying for.
Why pay a solicitor to give you legal advice and simply ignore their guidance. Once a proposal for settlement has been accepted within open correspondence between solicitors there is very little scope for a client to later back out on the agreement. If an experienced solicitor has indicated that it is a poor deal, it usually is.
In reality, no matter how prepared a client is emotionally or otherwise, going through separation and divorce it is an emotional process. However, if someone is prepared to conduct themselves in the manner as set out above it will make the most of their solicitor and the process will be swifter and less stressful.
If you would like to talk through any aspect of a divorce or separation, please contact Carline Gayle-Buckle on 01926 491181 for free initial advice.