Divorce ranks above pretty much all of the stressful events in life. It leaves families and friends divided, finances destroyed and hopes and ambitions unfulfilled. Sometimes divorce is the only way couples can remove themselves and their children from an abusive situation; whether that is through physical, emotional or financial harm.
For everyone, the first port of call is a solicitor.
Solicitors do not care about your personal life.
Solicitors are under pressure to achieve billing targets.
Solicitors bill you based on 6 minute time intervals (calculated at a tenth of their hourly rate).
Every time you call a solicitor to complain about your ex-spouse it costs you money, not them.
Solicitors bill most of their money in a divorce in writing pointless letters to your ex.
Solicitors need you to remain as a client for as long as possible because they have worked out how much you are prepared to pay them on a monthly basis.
The first question a solicitor needs to know is how much you are worth.
By the time you get to see a barrister or a judge in court there is almost no money left to fight over.
At court you will feel intense pressure to “settle” your case. Largely because there’s very little money left in it for the lawyers.
I’ve saved the worst for last. Litigation will destroy your and your children’s lives. Fact.
You are always pulled in by a “free first hour” appointment. This is a recruiting exercise, largely designed to give you unrealistic expectations about your case. You are then encouraged to hand over a retainer, a first £1000. This money vaporises instantly and after the first letter, you will be asked for more. I lost count of the number of clients who I would meet for the first time at court as their barrister, giving them advice on how the judge would view their case; only to be asked “why wasn’t I told this a year ago”? The answer lies in 1-10 (above).
Am I criticising solicitors here? No. I’m criticising the culture of litigation. Solicitors are no different to any other individual in business: they are in it to make money. Many times, solicitors are essential to the process because they can insulate victims of abuse from their abuser. They know how to access protection for vulnerable children in ways you wouldn’t have known about.
So where does mediation sit in all of this?
The government has tried to encourage litigants to pursue mediation first. However, their mechanism was never robust enough. To open the door to a court application all you need to do is to attend a Mediation Information Assessment and tell the mediator you don’t want to mediate. I’m not saying that solicitors encourage you to do this, all I’m saying is that there is no money in it for them if you decide to mediate your case rather than fight it in court.
A court application will eat your life for at least a year, if not more. Mediation can resolve your dispute in a matter of hours for a fraction of the cost. That is the financial and emotional cost I am referring to.