Article | Fabulous Women

2012 - Ready Steady Go!

Posted on 18/07/2012

Rachel Lemon from Mundays LLP explores how to take that first step following a relationship breakdown.

With the Olympics in London this year, are you stalling at the starting blocks for fear of the unknown?

Taking that first step to see a solicitor about the breakdown of a relationship whether that is a marriage, civil partnership or if you and your partner have been cohabiting, can be a very difficult step.

As a family law specialist, I am always very aware that just to make it to our first meeting, the person in front of me may well have needed to draw upon all their strength to get there.  It is a step that can be filled with trepidation, anxiety, anger, sadness to name only a few emotions.

However, by following a few simple steps and having an understanding of what to expect, it might not be so daunting.

The first thing to do is decide who you are going to seek advice from. You may speak to friends and contacts to see if they know someone; that is a good idea.  Someone who has been personally recommended to you is a good start. 

Also, most reputable family lawyers belong to a national organisation, called Resolution.  Resolution's website can be found at www.resolution.org.uk.  The website has a solicitor search facility and also a lot of helpful information and resources.  Members of Resolution subscribe to a code of conduct which requires them, amongst other things, to deal with family law disputes in a non-confrontational manner. That is not to say that members cannot be assertive and fight your corner.

Another resource you might use to select the right solicitor for you is to look at a highly regarded legal directory, Legal 500 (www.legal500.com).  The directory is divided into regions so you can select a solicitor convenient to where you live or work. The family law departments are "ranked" and you may find that a helpful guide.

Then take a look at the firm's website and the family department.  Usually, it is appropriate to telephone the head of department who will take some very initial details from you (often some financial details are taken so he/she can assess if you qualify for public funding ("legal aid")) so they can help you decide which member of the family team might be best placed to work with you.

So, you've got a date in the diary-what now?

First of all, don't panic.  Your chosen solicitor is there to work with you and help you.

You can expect your first meeting to last about 1.5 to 2 hours. 

Your solicitor will need to understand a bit about what has caused the breakdown in the relationship. Those details may be sensitive but your solicitor will guide you on how much detail they need depending on the circumstances. 

You will also need to let your solicitor have information about your finances (what assets you and your partner have, what your incomes are and what pensions you have).  It may also be relevant to talk about any inheritance prospects or special contributions that have been made.

Your solicitor is likely to also explain to you the relevant legal process (e.g. divorce or dissolution) so you know what to expect.

Your solicitor will also be able to discuss with you how you would prefer to deal with the process and discuss options with you such as court proceedings, solicitor to solicitor negotiations or mediation.

You should leave your meeting with a clear idea as to the next steps.

It may not be realistic to expect to know the detail of what might be an appropriate financial arrangement by the end of a first meeting but your solicitor can speak to you broadly about what is likely to be a reasonable and fair agreement. 

Going through a breakup is a process and the first meeting is just the first stage. Once you are off the starting blocks, the finish line can only get closer.

Rachel Lemon is an Associate Solicitor in the top ranking and highly regarded family team at Mundays LLP.  You can contact Rachel Lemon on 01932 590 612 or at rachel.lemon@mundays.co.uk.

This document is for information only, it does not intend to provide legal advice.  Mundays LLP accepts no responsibility for loss which may occur from reliance on information contained in this document.

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