If you are considering a separation or divorce, then I recommend you obtain legal advice as early as possible. I am often asked by a new client: “How do I prepare for our meeting?” Below are some tips on how you can make the most of the first meeting with your family solicitor:
- Think about the practical arrangements for the children. Even if you are living with your spouse or partner, consider carving out time with the children so that you both spend quality time with them.
- If you are married and have not been separated for more than two years, then you’ll need to consider a divorce petition based on the other spouse’s adultery (if applicable), or his/her unreasonable behaviour. If it is the latter, consider some examples of unreasonable behaviour. Your solicitor will be able to advise you further about this, for example, whether you can rely on the date you emotionally separated from your spouse but continued to live under the same roof.
- If you have your original marriage certificate, or a certified copy, it can be useful to bring this to the first meeting.
- If you share an email account with your spouse, then it is best to set up a new email account, which is password protected. Your lawyer will often communicate with you by email.
- Think about your monthly income budget. Use bank statements, credit card statements and utility bills to work out what you spend every month. Identify how much of this is essential, and how much is discretionary. Remember that some expenditure happens only once or twice per year.
- Know your income and assets. Often a solicitor will send you an information sheet to complete before the first meeting. Make a list of your bank accounts, assets and property. If you own property, find out how much it might be worth. If you have a mortgage, find out how much is left to repay (including an early repayment penalty), and over what term. If you have a pension, then request your cash equivalent value (CEV) from your employer (this can take several months to come through).
- Find a lawyer whose approach is conciliatory. You can find a local solicitor here http://www.resolution.org.uk/findamember/
- Ask your lawyer about how family mediation works. After the first meeting with your lawyer, you may decide that the mediation is a better process for you and spouse.
Remember, it is not essential to gather the above information for a first meeting. Often, a client uses a first meeting to explore options and obtain legal information and advice.