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It is possible to separate from your spouse or partner without using solicitors and other professionals. However you may feel that you would benefit from some expert advice and mediation. Below I have provided a quick summary of what services are available to you and when they might be suitable.



Do I need professional help? It is possible to agree on financial arrangements and, if there are children, agree on their care and support without any legal or other professional help. This is more likely to be the case if:

- your affairs are very straightforward
- you trust each other to be open and fair
- you feel comfortable talking about these issues with your spouse or civil partner

To legally end your marriage or civil partnership, you will need to go through the formal divorce or dissolution process but you can do this yourself without a legal professional. If you've agreed everything between you the divorce or dissolution paperwork is usually quite straightforward. If you need help filling in the forms you can contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Many people decide they do want to get help even if only for initial legal advice. Various professional advisers can help you. You may find that one approach is better suited to your needs than another.




Mediator

Mediator can help you and your partner reach your own agreement about children and financial matters. They don't take sides or give advice - they just help you communicate effectively. Many lawyers are also trained mediators.

Suitable for you if:

You can respond to a voluntary process where you both seek agreement. If you live in England and Wales, you now have to attend one mediation session before you can apply to the court to resolve your financial or children issues. In Northern Ireland there is a free pre-court mediation service available through Family Mediation NI.

Pros and cons

Mediation can be quicker, less stressful and cheaper than going to court. People are more likely to stick to the mediation agreement because they have worked out the terms themselves. Mediation sessions are completely confidential. If you can't reach an agreement through mediation you can either use a collaborative family lawyer or instruct a solicitor and go through the courts. Mediators cannot give legal advice – you should get legal advice aswell so that you know your entitlements when you are discussing things in mediation.

Costs

Mediation is likely to cost between £1,000 and £2,000 depending on how many sessions you need. (Source: Mumsnet)

Solicitor

A solicitor can give you advice on your rights, duties and entitlements. You can use them to either:

Help you with the divorce forms and paperwork
Put into effect an agreement you have reached independently with your partner.
Give you independent legal advice if you are negotiating a settlement through mediation.
Negotiate on your behalf directly with your partner’s solicitor and through the courts if necessary.


Suitable for you if:

You are looking for initial independent legal advice to ensure you fully understand your legal position or if your affairs are more complicated.

Pros and cons

Using a solicitor to negotiate on your behalf tends to be expensive.
If you opt to use a solicitor simply to give you some initial advice you will find that this can usually be done in a single meeting and some solicitors offer a free initial half hour meeting.


Costs

If you go to court your solicitor costs could be between £3,000 and £10,000 per person. (Source: Moneywise.co.uk)
The fee for a divorce or dissolution where everything has been agreed will vary depending on the solicitor so it is advisable to obtain quotes before instructing one.


Collaborative family lawyer

Collaborative family lawyers are specially trained solicitors. You and your partner each has your own collaborative family lawyer and you agree to work together to resolve the issues between you. This happens through a series of meetings between all four of you. You all sign an agreement not to go to court.

Suitable for you if:

You can still communicate and be civil with one another.

Pros and cons

It can be cheaper than going to court as the process is organised by you rather than the courts. You can work to your own timetable and priorities. If the negotiations break down then you have to appoint a new lawyer.

Costs

Even for a straightforward divorce, costs are likely to be £8,000 - £15,000 for each party. (Source: Alternative Family Law website)

Accountant or financial adviser

Accountant or financial advisers can advise you on your savings or investments. Some accountants specialise in valuing businesses for divorce purposes. They are called ‘forensic accountants’. Using a financial adviser can also be useful after your divorce and post settlement as they are able to advise you on how to manage your new circumstances and new financial position. This is especially useful if you have not been involved in your financial affairs before.

Suitable for you if:

You own a business, are in a business partnership or have very complex financial affairs. If you would like ongoing advice. You might want to arrange for your solicitor to instruct an accountant or adviser.

Pros and cons

Taking advice from an accountant or a financial adviser on what you do with your savings and investments could help you make decisions that are sensible and affordable for you. Having a business valued by an accountant can prove very expensive - especially if you disagree and each pay for your own valuation.

Costs

Financial advisers - will charge you on average £150 per hour, depending on where they are in the UK and their specialisms and qualifications. (Source: unbiased.co.uk) Accountants - a full valuation and report into a business can cost thousands of pounds (£10,000 - £15,000 is not unusual in complicated cases) but a basic valuation can cost just a few hundred pounds. (Source: savvywoman.co.uk)