With so much information freely available on the internet it’s tempting to think that you might save time and money taking a DIY approach to family law matters. In reality there are many pitfalls for the inexperienced, and with your future family life at stake this could be a costly and long-lasting mistake.

Here we look at 7 reasons why you really should take advice from a professional family solicitor. Whether it’s applying for a divorce, splitting your finances, making arrangements for your children or dealing with an application for non-molestation, can you really afford to “have a go” and hope you get it right?

Why use a Family Solicitor when Getting Divorced?

Reason 1 – Online divorce applications aren’t like ordering on Amazon!

All applications for divorce now need to be submitted via a digital portal. While most of us are used to online forms and one-click buying, the reality is that the online divorce portal is far from straightforward to use. Once you have finally sorted out your access you will need to learn the intricacies of using it properly, and we see the same mistakes over again:

  • Documents rejected for not following the scanning rules (for example marriage certificates)
  • Inability to change previous submissions if you change your mind
  • Users thinking they have submitted their application but the portal disagrees!

Unfortunately, if the divorce documentation is not correct, or answers are inaccurate or incomplete, the online application for divorce will be refused at the second stage of proceedings. This means restarting the whole divorce process and incurring a second set of court fees.

Specialist family solicitors are experts in using the digital divorce portal and making sure that everything is included in an application. Using a professional gives you the confidence that your application will be right first time.

Reason 2 – Timing is crucial

Applying for a divorce isn’t something that you should do whenever you get a spare afternoon – the timing of your application can be crucial.

For example, you only have 6 months to apply for a divorce on the grounds of adultery – if you leave it any longer from the last adulterous incident then you will be rejected and may have to wait two years or more. It is also very difficult to prove adultery if the other person is not prepared to admit it – do you have the expertise to prepare the behaviour particulars?

You should also carefully consider when the final application is made to conclude your divorce – for example, have you completed your financial arrangements? A specialist family solicitor will explain all the potential grounds for divorce and make sure you apply at the right time and for the right reasons.

Reason 3 – Getting divorced doesn’t automatically agree your finances

Many people don’t realise that getting divorced doesn’t automatically agree how your finances should be split. We see clients who haven’t reached a financial arrangement because they didn’t think it was necessary, or simply forgot to do it, and they leave themselves open to financial claims years after their divorce is final.

The answer is to obtain a financial resolution (or Ancillary Relief as it called by the court). This is a process requiring lots of evidential information from both parties, including bank statements, pension records, mortgage statements, investment statements and wage slips or proof of income documents.

It is essential that all the correct documentation is produced and disclosed throughout the proceedings and that any agreement reached is recorded in a Consent Order which needs to be drawn up by a lawyer. If an agreement is reached and the agreement is not placed in a court order, it is not legally binding and one party could make a future claim against the other. For this reason, you should always instruct a lawyer to obtain a Consent Order even if you have reached an informal agreement.

If you haven’t yet reached an agreement, then speak to a specialist family solicitor to safeguard your financial interests and make sure any financial settlement is fair. They will collate and correctly lodge all the supporting documentation whilst calmly negotiating the best outcome on your behalf. It is quite common for one party to look after the finances in a relationship, and the other party isn’t always aware of the full extent of their finances. Could this apply to you? Your family solicitor will be alert to this and will make sure that all assets are disclosed and included in the settlement.

Why use a Family Solicitor for Children Act Applications?

Reason 4 – Getting the forms right first time

When it comes to your children’s future, you can’t afford to make mistakes. For example, if you are making an application for child arrangements or to resolve a dispute, it is critical that all information is included in the original C100 form.

If you are making allegations of harm or domestic violence, a form C1A must also be fully completed, and it is essential that all concerns are fully set out in the documentation. This also applies the other way round – if you are a responding to an application from your partner or former partner then you may also need to complete a form C1A and you must include all the relevant facts.

If parties are required to file statements, these act as your evidence; you will not be able to add things later, therefore it is very important your statement is property completed with all the relevant information.

Whether you are making or defending an application, an experienced family solicitor is there to give you the best chance of success. They know what questions to ask to get hold of all the key information and then how to present it properly to the courts.

Reason 5 – You only get one chance to prepare for the Court Hearing

Going to court is an extremely stressful experience for the inexperienced and turning up on the day without proper preparation is unlikely to bring success.

If your case is listed for a Finding of Fact court hearing it is essential that all statements set out the allegations and responses fully and accurately and the Schedule of Allegations is correctly completed. Further allegations cannot be added later and if there is insufficient information in your statement, this will be used against you at a contested hearing and could influence whether the court finds in your favour.

Using a specialist family lawyer for your hearing will ensure that you have the best chance of success. They will carefully take statements, lodge your documents on time and in the correct manner and represent you at contested hearings. When emotions are running high it is better to have a calm and knowledgeable lawyer acting on your behalf to achieve the best results.

Why use a Family Solicitor for Non-Molestation proceedings?

Reason 6 – Protecting you from abuse and keeping a safe distance

Non-molestation orders are designed to protect victims of domestic violence, whether physical, emotional or financial. If you are the victim of abuse and are seeking a non-molestation order then there are two key reasons to seek professional help.

Firstly and most obviously, it is extremely important that you are successful in your application. A family lawyer who specialises in domestic violence claims will know how to present your case to maximise the chance of obtaining the order against your former partner.

Secondly, you may also have left your partner and wish to hide your whereabouts so they cannot find you. Using a solicitor means that they will take care of all correspondence with your partner or their solicitor and you will not need to correspond with them directly. This will make it much easier to keep your address and contact details safe from your former abuser.

Reason 7 – Protecting you from false allegations of abuse

It is a sad fact that some people find themselves on the receiving end of a malicious non-molestation application. This may be because their partner wishes to make themselves eligible for Legal Aid, to obtain leverage over children or simply to get a better deal out of a divorce. Many applications are made “ex-parte” which means you don’t have a chance to defend yourself and won’t be aware of the proceedings until you receive the written order through your letterbox. You will then have a matter of days before the court hearing to prepare your defence and dispute the initial order.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of non-molestation proceedings and don’t successfully defend yourself then the resulting court order may damage your reputation, lead to criminal proceedings if you break it and will almost certainly make it more difficult to see your children.

If you need to defend a malicious non-molestation order, then you should seek the immediate help of a specialist family solicitor. They will establish your side of the story and prepare a statement and supporting documentation that responds to the allegations in a calm and professional manner. They will also be able to support you at the Court hearing which will inevitably be a difficult and stressful situation to cope with by yourself.

Contact Us for Help and Support

If you need expert Family Law advice in any area then our friendly, expert team are here to help. Contact us today to arrange a free 30 minute consultation with one of our family lawyers and find out what they can do to reduce the stress of your situation.

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