Do I need a lawyer for my divorce?


date published

7th November 2016

written by

Emma Heptonstall Image

date published

7th November 2016

Do I need a lawyer for my Divorce?

Do I need a lawyer for my divorce? This is probably one of the questions I get asked most frequently by women. The answer isn’t yes or no. It’s always ‘maybe’. You see it really depends on your circumstances. It depends on how long you have been married, what your assets are, how interlinked your finances are and how able your are to handle the paperwork and the communication you’ll need to have with your husband.  If you’ve been married for more than a short period (5 year +) it more probable that you’ll benefit from seeking legal advice. You may need legal assistance even if you have been married less than this. If you haven’t been married long, and you dont have any joint assets, well then, you might feel able to to divorce without a lawyer. But remember, divorce only ends your marriage. It doesn’t resolve the financial obligations that you have towards each other. You need a court order for that.  Do you absolutely need a lawyer the minute you decide to divorce? In my opinion no. Running straight to a lawyer without thinking can be a mistake.

Deciding to Divorce

Most lawyers are not trained to support you to decide emotionally what you want. Some are excellent at this nonetheless.
You make your own life easier and that of your lawyer if you have clarity about what you want. I’m not just talking physical possessions, money and children, I’m talking about emotionally, lifestyle and process. When I say process, I mean divorce process.

Choosing a process

Did you know that there’s more than one process you can use to divorce? Which you choose is up to you, the circumstances, your values and your finances.

The Traditional Process

You are probably familiar with the traditional court process. You find a lawyer, your husband finds a lawyer and your lawyer take instructions from you, give you advice and negotiate on your behalf. This process can be very costly and time consuming. Sometimes, it’s absolutely necessary – for example, if you are experiencing domestic abuse. However, for many people, it really isn’t necessary.

The Collaborative Process

More and more couples are choosing the Collaborative Process, and whilst it isn’t suitable for everyone, if you would like to resolve your financial affairs and arrangements for your children as amicably as possible, whilst maintaining communication and avoiding contested court hearings, the Collaborative process may well be for you. Collaborative lawyers are specially trained and sign up to a code of conduct promoting solution focused outcomes with the emphasis being on minimising conflict. Not every lawyer is collaboratively trained but you can find details of your locally trained lawyers at

Using the Collaborative process means that you and your lawyer and your husband and his lawyer work together as a team to work out what’s best for you and your family based on the principles and ground rules which you draw up between you in a Participation Agreement. After each initially meeting with your lawyers individually, you will then have a series of ‘four-way meetings’ where the four of you will meet together to resolve the issues which you bring. With your agreement, you may also be supported by other experts in the meeting such as Family Consultants or Financial Advisers so that the two of you are able to make the best decisions for you and your family. 

If agreement is reached, your lawyers will draw up a Settlement Agreement which can be placed before Court for approval and the making of an Order.

Choosing the right lawyer

Whichever process you choose to use, if you’ve been married for more than a short period,  and/or have property, other capital pensions and investments, then it’s likely you’ll need the support of a lawyer and or a Financial Adviser. Choosing the right lawyer for you is important. Recommendation is a good place to start. If you don’t have any recommendations, shop around. 

So how do you find a lawyer that’s right for you?
✅ Do your research
Get recommendations
Remember cost is only 1 element
Ask questions
If you want to avoid litigation consider a resolution lawyer they agree to a code of conduct     to encourage settlement.
Seek a lawyer who is pro-mediation. If they tell you it doesn’t work, steer clear!
Consider collaborative law. This is where you and your lawyer plus your STBXH and his lawyer sit together to      negotiate. Other professionals may help you too.
Only instruct a lawyer you’re comfortable with.
Remember that there are amazing lawyers out there who want to help!

Be open and honest with your lawyer about what your expectations are. Be prepared to hear what you are advised – it may not be what you want to hear! A good lawyer will want to do what’s right for you, and respect your wishes, even if it is against their advice. If you don’t want to argue with your husband over a sum of money your lawyer says you’re entitled to, that’s your decision, not theirs. Don’t be swayed to do something you don’t feel comfortable with. 

Your lawyer is not your therapist

Remember that your lawyer is there to help you practically, not emotionally. Even if you get on well and you feel your lawyer understands you, they will bill you for their time spent talking to you. Before you pick up the phone to them, ask yourself whether or not whether the purpose of your call is to move your matters forward. If the answer is no, phone a friend! 

I’m Emma The Divorce Alchemist. I support Ladies who Leave to make smart emotional and financial decisions on divorce. If you don’t have your copy yet, you can download The Smart Woman’s Divorce Guide by completing the box below. Please note, by signing up, you will receive a series of 7 emails over 28 days to accompany the Guide. You will also receive an email from me each Wednesday morning UK time with hints, tips and advice. I sometimes promote my coaching packages too – I’m sure you understand that this is my business :). You may unsubscribe at anytime.


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Emma Heptonstall The Divorce Alchemist is author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a practising family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self study and group programme to help you get control of your divorce before it gets control of you. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit


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