If you are thinking of separation or divorce, you will understandably be anxious about a number of matters: the children, money and finances, and the costs of sorting everything out.

You will no doubt want to have a discussion with a family law solicitor to obtain basic information as to what is likely to be involved as far as you and your family is concerned, and the likely outcomes as regards children and financial arrangements.

All of this can be overwhelming, but there are a number of ways in which you can help to save on legal costs whilst obtaining the advice and information that you need. The points to bear in mind are as follows:


  1. Arrange to meet with a specialist family lawyer who is also a mediator and/or collaborative lawyer, as they will be able to give you information on the various options available to you in terms of process going forward. Making an appointment to see a solicitor who is a member of Resolution (a body of family lawyers whose aim is to deal with matters constructively and amicably) is a good start.


  1. Before seeing the solicitor, organise your financial information and documents, so that you provide your solicitor with clear details of your income, assets, pension and liabilities, any of those of your partner/spouse of which you are aware and any joint assets/income/liabilities with your partner/spouse/anyone else.


  1. Have your questions ready in advance of the meeting and going forward, try to deal with questions in a meeting/call, rather than sending lots of separate emails which are time-consuming for the solicitor to deal with and therefore costly because the solicitor will charge for their time on your matter and therefore for each time they receive an email and send you an email in reply.


  1. Your solicitor will recommend other experts to you as necessary, but if you need someone to talk to about how you feel, then you should seek out a counsellor/therapist/divorce coach who will be cheaper than your solicitor. Make sure that you use the right people for the job and use your solicitor for obtaining legal advice rather than as a counsellor, which will be expensive.


  1. Consider mediation with a solicitor mediator. You and your partner/spouse can discuss your issues with the mediator who is a trained solicitor and will know the sorts of orders the court makes in family matters. They will also be impartial and neutral. The mediator will help you and your partner/spouse to reach your own informed decisions by facilitating your discussions and negotiations and by providing legal information and options to consider within the parameters that a court might order in your situation. You can still have your solicitor in the background for advice in between mediation sessions but using your solicitor when needed for advice will help to keep the legal costs to a minimum. Discussing matters in mediation will help to keep the solicitor correspondence to a minimum too which will help to keep the costs more manageable.


  1. Consider collaborative law. This is where you and your partner/spouse will each have solicitors who are trained collaborative lawyers, so that you will have meetings together with both solicitors, providing you with advice but also working together to try to ensure the best outcome for the two of you and your family as a whole.


Using mediation in divorce negotiations

Where alternatives to court are concerned, for example, mediation, you are in control of the pace of the mediation process and can go as slowly or as quickly as you want. You can put interim arrangements in place whilst working on a longer-term resolution and the mediation process is generally less expensive than undertaking all work through solicitors because the costs of the mediator are shared generally between you and your partner/spouse in whatever way you agree (normally equally). Mediation assists communication, so can help preserve good working relationships between you and your partner/spouse, and this is particularly important where children are concerned. Mediation can involve other professionals, including lawyers, financial advisers and pension experts, and so all advice required can be obtained within the one process.

Family mediation can also be a helpful method to use when it comes to address child-related issues such as:

  • Parenting issues – where issues could be resolved if each parent communicated with the other, e.g. in relation to homework issues, watching TV, use of devices, and return times.
  • Holidays – sorting out school holidays for the year ahead or sorting out particular holidays, such as Christmas, Easter and summer.
  • General contact arrangements and if these are to include overnight stays.
  • Moving a child from this country to another country or to another part of this country where the principle of a move is agreed or could be agreed, but where practicalities need to be dealt with, along with detailed discussion before reaching a final decision.
  • Determining a future school for a child or children.
  • Dealing with dietary or medical issues for children where both parents need to work together.

Financial issues that the mediation process can be beneficial to address include:

  • When money is stretched or facts are straightforward with no complex issues, mediation can be a perfect way to deal with matters.
  • Interim finances in terms of maintenance can be dealt with swiftly in mediation, so as to avoid litigation. Mediation is quicker and cheaper for achieving a holding position while the longer-term resolution is looked at.
  • Housing needs can be looked at in mediation, so that you and your partner/spouse can look realistically at what is on the market and travel times between places which can help to unlock negotiations and achieve a resolution, both in terms of children issues and financial issues.
  • Where financial disclosure has been provided and a hearing is forthcoming, but no one wants the expense of the actual hearing, you should consider mediation (with or without solicitors in attendance, as the case dictates) which can help to bring about a resolution and avoid hearings.
  • Consider the help of a mediator in providing a first draft of an overall agreement, where the mediator has been involved in helping to reach an overall resolution. This can help on keeping costs and time spent down.

Mediation can also be used to discuss the contents of a cohabitation agreement or a separation agreement, a pre-marital agreement or a post-nuptial agreement. The mediator can help to make the whole process more amicable and can deal with the concerns and anxieties of you and your partner/spouse. The mediator can discuss with you the sort of agreement that you both want and how to go about it and can give an outline which can be used to draw up the agreement. The mediator can draw up a first draft of the agreement which can then be taken to your separate solicitors for advice/finalising.

If you have any questions or concerns about separation and divorce and mediation or any other family query, please contact Emma Harte.

For further information please contact:

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.