For the first time ‘married people’ have become a minority in Britain and statistics show that divorce levels are falling.
For those in the throws of a marriage, civil partnership or relationship break down however it is still a very difficult and worrying time. Until April 2013 the concern about how to pay for Legal Advice in respect of issues such as contact and finances has been eased by legal aid being available subject to means testing.
From April however this will change and only in circumstances where there has been PROVEN domestic abuse will legal aid be available. For many the absence of affordable and accessible legal advice may become a real problem
Family lawyer at Coodes Solicitors, Ian Taylor says that those in an unhappy relationship should not let the lack of legal aid put them off doing something about it – there are still affordable options available. “Many law firms like Coodes offer fixed fee legal advice for marriage and relationship breakdown. Various packages may be available and customers are often surprised by how reasonable and affordable fixed fees are. Coodes even offers a ‘value’ on-line divorce option which includes support from our team and other ‘value’ options.
You wouldn’t buy a meal in a restaurant without knowing how much you will have to pay when the bill comes and we look at legal fees in very much the same way.
It’s not always possible to have a fixed fee which covers every eventuality, and in those cases that are more unusual or have particularly complex legal issues work is undertaken on an hourly rate.
The vast majority of cases we handle however are relatively straight forward and have fairly standard issues, and for these we can offer fixed fees for divorce, dissolution of civil partnership, financial consent orders, wills and a host of other services for situations that may arise during day to day life.
Where legal aid might be available this can also be provided to customers subject to the means and merits tests being met.”
Apart from taking Court action there are other ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’ options which might resolve issues between separating parties.
Relate Cornwall provide couple and relationship counselling which can help separating parties agree on the terms of their separation and find ways to continue communicating especially where children are concerned.
Mediation has been widely used for some time to assist with resolution of disputes without the formality of court processes. It can deal with a whole range of issues such as finances and children. If the mediation resolves the dispute, the agreement is recorded in a formal document. In financial matters where there is a divorce, this is also recorded by the court to bring finality to the dispute.
Family Arbitration has also now become available with a pool of trained arbitrators across the Country who are able to make decisions about financial matters for married and unmarried couples without the need for lengthy and costly court proceedings.
If you are married however, none of these routes are able to actually end your marriage or provide you with the security of a final order regarding contact or residence. They may however ease the way to make any subsequent proceedings less painful and much quicker and cheaper if they can be dealt with by agreement.
Don’t despair – help is available!
So the important message is that whilst legal aid may no longer be available, there are alternatives and if Court proceedings are required there may be ways to fix the fees you have to pay, spread the payment period and pay by credit card or other methods to help you when you most need it.
For specialist family and domestic abuse services contact Coodes – available from all of our offices.