No one would argue that seeking legal advice on your divorce or separation isn’t essential. However, if you and your spouse fail to agree on the terms, this can lead to lengthy and very expensive legal proceedings. This is where family mediation is essential.
Good legal advice can help establish what the law is regarding your case, as well as equip you better before you go into family mediation or discussions with your spouse. By doing so, you will gain a better understanding of what you are entitled to and the awareness to check any agreements to ensure you have considered everything.
The difficulty comes when you have each paid approximately £1,200 to your solicitors to go through your Form E’s, or financial disclosures — but you each received conflicting advice on what you should receive as part of the financial arrangements.
In this post, we’ll take a look at a few examples of cases where contrasting legal advice has hindered — rather than helped — a couple’s divorce case and also why the issues mentioned can be resolved with family mediation.
The Problem with Contrasting Legal Advice
Let me take the above example, where each party invested £1,200 to receive legal advice. One party was told they are entitled to 70% of the total assets, spousal maintenance at £1,800 per month and 50% of the pension. The other party was told there is no reason why they should not split the assets on a 50/50 basis. The reason for this was because they were nearing retirement age sooner than their spouse and should receive more of the pension share — around a 60/40 split. If any spousal maintenance was due, it should be for a nominal order of £1 per year.
As you can imagine, it was very difficult for either party to compromise on such polar positions. In this case, the difference between 70% and 50% of the assets was a little over £150,000. Not an insignificant amount to compromise on.
Reassured that they were both in the right, the parties went to court, at the cost of just under £70,000 between them. It took 18 months, an awful lot of stress and time out of work and their ongoing relationship. This was difficult but manageable at the start of the process. However, it turned into a deeply embedded hatred of one another, that impacted on their family and friends.
Eventually, the court made a judgement, which was for a 55/45 division of the assets, the same division of the pension fund and ongoing spousal maintenance of £500pcm. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a resolution either party was particularly happy with.
The above case shows how new ways of resolving disputes — such as an independent barrister review — can help clients understand what the court is likely to order. More importantly, this example also shows what they will and will not take into consideration. In the above case, the wife had had an affair, and the husband was adamant the settlement should reflect this. He didn’t feel the breakdown of the marriage was his fault, so didn’t think he should be financially ‘punished’ – in his words.
How a Professional Mediator Can Help
In another recent case, we mediated for more than ten months. Finally — despite the case being difficult and complex — we helped the clients reach an agreement. Part of the agreement was a pension sharing order from the husband to the wife of 30%. A memo of understanding (MOU) was drafted, and both parties wanted their solicitors to check the agreement before we drafted a consent order. Nothing wrong with that at all and as explained, it is encouraged by the mediators to ensure everyone is happy before agreements are signed.
However, in this case, one of the solicitors said that as one of the parties was keeping 70% of the pension fund, they should contribute 70% of the cost of the pension sharing order. The other solicitor, however, stated any costs of the pension sharing order should be shared equally between the two parties. This relatively minor point (worth around £2,000), caused the entire agreement to collapse and the clients were on the verge of going to court — which would have been significantly more expensive for both parties.
In this case, we were not prepared to allow the clients to go to court over a difference of £2000 when the process would have cost them tens of thousands. Instead, they agreed our independent solicitors should be asked by the mediator how the clients should share the costs on a pension sharing order. Our solicitors said they always share costs 50/50 (unless the couple agrees not to) and also that they had never heard of the share being divided as the first solicitor suggested.
The clients accepted this, and we were successful in keeping them out of court. More importantly, they were able to put their agreement in place much quicker than a court would allow. This meant they could start to rebuild their lives much faster and put the troubles of their divorce behind them — rather than having to endure several months (or years) of a stressful court case. We now offer a fixed-fee check of your agreement recorded in the (MOU) by a professional family law solicitor.
Why Choose Mediate UK?
At Mediate UK, we have a team of passionate and professional family mediators who are vastly experienced and passionate about their profession. Family mediation requires a deep understanding of people’s emotional state during difficult times, such as divorce and separation — but also a sense of authority that ensures both parties are happy with the outcome. This is something our team has worked very hard to achieve.
In cases such as the ones mentioned above, a skilled mediator can be the difference between a positive and equally beneficial outcome, and a court case that sees both you and your spouse spending tens of thousands of pounds. The latter can make post-divorce life especially difficult when it comes to starting a new life and dealing with all of the expenses that come with it.
We are also specialists in online mediation, which allows us to help clients from all over England and Wales. This process has proven vital for exes unable to attend in person, for one reason or another. Our well-practised video call system provides all of the benefits of a face-to-face appointment, with software that ensures both parties have ample time to say their piece.
Are you concerned about the cost of going to court for your divorce or separation and need an alternative? At Mediate UK, we help divorcing couples resolve their disputes in a more calm, logical and financially-beneficial manner. Get in touch today to schedule a consultation with one of our mediators.