If you can’t agree on some issues…
If there are issues around money and property or arrangements for the children that you really can’t agree on, you may have to ask the court to decide. Sometimes starting the court process helps to get your ex-partner talking and focussed on the need to make agreements.
"I learned to block the endless replays of what happened in my head. You have to police your thoughts. It is difficult to do at first, but it comes with practice and it is a great help for moving on.” Murray
Remember that the court will usually want evidence that you have met with a mediator first and considered mediation, or tried to, before they will consider making a decision for you. See Sorting out arrangements after you have split up - Could Family Mediation help you? for more details about these rules.
If you need to go to court you have the option of:
- Getting a solicitor to help you make your case, or
- Doing it yourself.
The difficulty is that using solicitors to take matters to court can be very expensive. The legal fees can quite easily end up being more than the value of all but the most expensive items. Even if the matter does end up in court, the judge will still encourage you to agree the issues with your ex-partner as this is always the preferable solution.
If you are using a solicitor
Cut your costs by:
- Shopping around to compare prices. If you are looking at fixed price packages, check what they include and if they are suitable for your circumstances. Check whether prices quoted include VAT.
- Being organised – ensure you don’t waste time by having all the information your solicitor needs to hand (information about your finances etc)
- Preparing for conversations - have a list of everything you need to discuss and avoid going off the point.
- Avoiding sending letters, emails or telephoning your solicitor unnecessarily. If you are not on a fixed price package, solicitors will charge for taking each phone call, and replying to each letter or email.
- Agreeing what tasks you can do and what your solicitor is going to do. For example, people usually divide up the contents of the home or arrange the details of when the children will see the parent they don’t live with, between themselves.
- Making sure you are clear if there will be any expenses you’ll have to pay on top of solicitors fees and court fees (for example, for any expert reports or for a barrister’s fee for representing you in contested court hearings).
Doing it yourself is unfortunately not easy because it is quite a complicated procedure. We recommend that before you consider it you get advice from a solicitor about whether it is worth it. Advicenow and the Royal Courts of Justice Advice Bureau are currently working together to produce a step-by-step guide for people having to take money or property issues or arrangements for the children to court. These are expected to be available in late 2013 and you will be able to download them for free from the Advicenow website or the Royal Courts of Justice Advice Bureau’s website.
Sadly some people will have little choice but to put up with an unfair situation. If you have not come to an agreement about arrangements for the children, the court can refuse to do the final step (called the decree absolute for marriages and dissolution order for civil partnerships) so that you will remain married/in the civil partnership.
If you do have to use the court to deal with, for example, money and property issues, they will deal with them separately from the other parts of the divorce (for example, the bit that ends the marriage or arrangements for any children).