Your options for legal or financial advice on divorce or dissolution

Money Advice Service

The amount of legal or financial advice you take will depend on how complicated your divorce or dissolution is, how much money you have to pay for advice and whether you’ve agreed to part on good terms. Many couples use one or more professionals during their divorce or dissolution.

Do you need a solicitor to get divorced or dissolve your civil partnership?

To legally end your marriage or civil partnership, you’ll need to go through the formal divorce or dissolution process.

But you can do this yourself with limited or no legal help.

Should you take professional help and advice?

You don’t need to use a solicitor or other professional when you sort out the finances – you can just decide between the two of you what you’d like to do.

But many couples do seek legal advice from professionals, even if that’s only a one-off meeting with a solicitor or an initial meeting with a mediator.

Various professional advisers can help you. You might find that one approach is better suited to your needs – and budget – than another.

Using a mediator

A mediator can help you and your ex-partner (husband, wife or civil partner) reach your own agreement about children and financial matters.

They don’t take sides or give advice; instead, they help couples work towards an agreement.

An increasing number of family lawyers are also trained mediators.

Mediation works best where couples trust each other to be open and honest.

If you and your ex-partner can’t talk about who should look after the children or how you’ll divide your money, mediation might not be right for you.

It’s also not appropriate where there’s been domestic violence or where one partner is controlling or intimidating. A mediator will tell you whether your situation is suitable for mediation.

If you’re divorcing in England or Wales, you now have to attend one session to assess whether mediation is suitable for you, before you can apply to the court to resolve any financial or children issues.

This is called a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. You might be able to get legal aid to help pay mediation costs, but it’s means-tested.

Pros and cons of mediation

  • Mediation can be quicker and more cost effective than a traditional lawyer-led divorce or dissolution, and couples can feel more in control of the agreement.
  • Mediation is flexible so you can use it to agree some areas of your divorce or dissolution but not others.
  • Mediation sessions are confidential. That means if you can’t reach agreement and go to court, what’s been said in the sessions can’t be used by your solicitor.
  • Mediators can’t give legal advice. That means you should see a solicitor before you start mediation so you know your rights. You also need to get a solicitor to draw up a legal agreement formalising anything you’ve agreed.

You can find a mediator:

Using a solicitor

A solicitor can give you advice on your rights, responsibilities and entitlements.

You can use them to:

  • help you with the divorce or dissolution forms and paperwork.
  • put into effect an agreement you have reached independently with your ex-partner.
  • negotiate on your behalf directly with your ex-partner’s solicitor, and through the courts if necessary.
  • give you independent legal advice, either if you’re negotiating a settlement through mediation or at the start of your process if you’re doing a do-it-yourself divorce or dissolution.

Pros and cons of using a solicitor

  • A solicitor might give you information about your financial entitlement that you would not otherwise be aware of. If your ex-partner will not negotiate with you, using a solicitor might be more effective than trying to sort it out directly. Most solicitors offer fixed-fee services or capped rates, which can be cost effective.
  • A solicitor can be very expensive, although costs will vary depending on the law firm, where it is based and how complicated your divorce or dissolution is.

You can find a solicitor:

Using a collaborative family lawyer

Collaborative family lawyers are specially trained solicitors who can help you reach agreement through a series of meetings with your ex-partner.

You and your ex-partner each have your own collaborative family lawyer.

  • You all sign an agreement not to go to court
  • You agree to work together to resolve the issues between you
  • Meetings are face-to-face with all four of you present.

Pros and cons of collaborative family law

  • Couples often feel more positive about an agreement reached through collaborative family law than a traditional lawyer-led divorce or dissolution because they have been directly involved in negotiations. Collaborative family lawyers can work with accountants or pension specialists if they are needed.
  • It can be more expensive than a traditional lawyer-led divorce or dissolution (depending on how much a couple can agree between them). If couples can’t reach agreement through collaborative family law and take their dispute to court, new solicitors would have to be appointed, which would add to the costs.
  • It works best if you and your ex-partner live near each other or can easily get to the face-to-face meetings. It might be difficult to find a collaborative family lawyer if you live in a rural location.

You can find a collaborative family lawyer:

Using an accountant

An accountant can help value assets, such as a business. Some accountants specialise in assessing whether one partner is hiding their assets (typically property, a business or investments) or downplaying the value of a business they own.

They are called ‘forensic accountants’.

Pros and cons of using an accountant

  • The right accountant will be expert in valuing businesses, which a lawyer would not usually have experience of doing.
  • The costs can be high, especially for a forensic accountant. Even if they can show that assets have been hidden, forcing your partner to release those assets might cost more than the assets are worth.

You can find a chartered accountant:

Using an actuary

An actuary is a specialist who can provide an accurate valuation of a final salary or other salary-related pension.

Working out the true value of these pensions can be complicated.

It’s not something a family law solicitor would be able to do.

Pros and cons of using an actuary

  • Useful for valuing pensions that can be complicated to assess.
  • The costs can be high.

You can find an actuary on the website of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.

Using a financial adviser

A financial adviser can advise on issues such as how to divide assets in the most tax-efficient way and how to invest the proceeds of a divorce or dissolution settlement.

Pros and cons of using a financial adviser

  • Specialist advice might be valuable in financially-complex divorce or dissolution cases.
  • Using a financial adviser will add to the overall costs of divorce or dissolution.

For tips on choosing a financial adviser, check out our page. For financial advisers based in England or Wales who are accredited as experts in divorce or dissolution on the Resolution website.

Get help from The Pensions Advisory Service

If you’re thinking about getting divorced and you’re confused about what this might mean for your pension, The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) has a free service to review your options by phone.

To find out more and book your free appointment to speak to someone, visit the TPAS website.

When you get a divorce or dissolution, there will be costs to pay. You might be entitled to help. If you do have to pay fees alone, and don’t have savings or income to cover it, learn about what other options you have, with our How to pay legal fees on divorce or dissolution.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.

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