Divorce costs: the questions to ask at your first appointment with your solicitor

Divorce|September 5th 2013

This is an amended extract from my latest book, Divorce & Splitting Up: Advice From a Top Divorce Lawyer.

The Law Society requires solicitors to inform clients about likely legal costs before the first appointment. Ensure that you are aware of your solicitor’s charge-out rate. Do not presume that your first appointment is free, unless this has been confirmed in writing.

Here is a list of questions to take to your first appointment with your new solicitor. Print this page or snap a picture of these questions on your smartphone. If you also take a notebook, you can fill out the answers there and then.

Divorce costs: the questions to ask your solicitor

  1. Please could you provide more detailed information about the likely divorce costs? (Note: at the first appointment you should also be asked to sign a form, to confirm that you are aware of the solicitor’s charge-out rate for the first meeting.)
  1. How long is this divorce likely to take?
  2. Who will be working on my case? How will my case be supervised?
  3. How often will I be billed? What are the payment terms?
  4. To whom do I address any complaints about your service or my case?
  5. How often will I come to your office, and how much of this work can be conducted via e-mail or fax?
  6. How often will I attend court?
  7. Is an alternative form of dispute resolution appropriate in my case?
  8. What about outside assistance? For example, are barristers, forensic accountants or other experts required?
  9. Are my divorce costs recoverable from my spouse?
  10. How can I pay my costs as the case progresses, if I don’t have the money available?

After the meeting, your solicitor should send you a note to confirm the advice you have been given, along with a client retainer letter that confirms all the housekeeping information. This note will be an aide memoir.

by Marilyn Stowe is the essential how-to book for anyone who is getting divorced or splitting up from a partner.

This bestselling guide features checklists, case studies and FAQs alongside step-by-step explanations and easy-to-understand legal advice. Available on Kindle (£0.99) and in paperback (£5.99).

“Clear, concise and frank – just what you need in this situation” – Mrs Karen Taylor, reader.

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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  1. sotiroulla elia says:

    After 19years of marriage, going through a divorce with 4 children. Need advise asap. Read your amazing book and feel better.

  2. ruth babington says:

    Thank you. Yesterday I received a copy of your book “Divorce and Splitting Up”. After over 2 years of floundering through the mysteries of Scottish divorce I found significant help and advice on pages 130 and 131 of this book. It confirmed my fears concerning the Scottish divorce laws and and has given me the means to take a positive and questioning approach to my evasive and uninformative Aberdeen solicitor. I think this will most likely mean that I will have to find another solicitor, possibly in either Edinburgh or Glasgow. I am so grateful for this information. I am willing to take on a challenge but find it difficult to continue trying to be cooperative and informative to the best of my ability when surrounded by a fog of lack of directions from my only connection with the procedure ie my solicitor

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Dear Ruth
      Many thanks, don’t stick with a lawyer you don’t feel confident with. You are paying the bill and only get one chance to sort this out.

  3. Joanne says:

    Dear Marilyn I was a victim of domestic violence from my husband and he was convicted of this. I have found that with the recent legal aid cuts I cannot find a solicitor to represent me. My husbands lawyer has being bullying and harassing me to leave the matrimonial home with the children. I have petitioned for divorce and yet he will not acknowledge receipt of the petition. What do I do regarding finances? He has been very clever and is self employed and is only paying the basic rate of maintenance. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Dear Joanne
      You are one of the few who as a result of demonstrable domestic violence may still be entitled to legal aid. Do check.
      You can get your husband personally served with the petition by the court bailiff or by enquiry agent if you have the funds. Then the case can proceed.
      The lawyer acts on his clients instructions. You can issue an application for a financial settlement. You cannot be forced to make yourself homeless along with the children. You can apply for interim maintenance to tide you over pending a final settlement. You can obtain a non molestation order and an order for occupation of the property if you haven’t done so already.
      There’s plenty you can do. Download my book for 99p from the sidebar and you will learn far more and the proceeds go to The Children’s Society.

  4. Stitchedup says:

    “My husbands lawyer has being bullying and harassing me”

    If your husband’s lawyer is truly bullying and harassing you report him/her to the police and the law society. Also, it’s real easy to get a harassment warning served, all you have to do is say that you have found something they have said distressing. My ex managed to get a harassment warning served on me just because I asked for my personal property to be returned which she had taken without my consent….. aka theft. She was told to return the items but I was served with an harassment warning for sending 3 texts asking for my property back…..no violence, threats or bad language.

    I’m no lawyer so not qualified to give advice, but as your husband has been convicted of domestic violence against you, I assume you can apply for an occupation order. It’s not hard and it sounds as if you’re 95% of the way there given your ex has a conviction for DV against you.

  5. J says:

    I have left the marital home (bad idea) with my children due to threat of violence and constant emotional abuse. It was making me ill. I have told my husband I want to divorce and he has agreed to sell the house-we are joint owners, But in the meantime, I am stuck living with friends and it has put a strain on our relationship. I have been looking at occupation orders but dont have enough money to pay for the house on my own and husband wont be able to pay all the bills and mortgage either if he has to pay out for his own place too. I also dont have specific dates or incidents to cite for an order to be considered. So it might be an expensive waste of time.
    I have an appointment to see a solicitor but dont really know what to ask at this first appointment-its only half an hour and very expensive so i feel pressured somewhat. Should i ask if an order would be successful given i dont have funds to pay for the house myself? Are there any other important things I should ask at a first appointment? I am being forced to look at an occ order due to the possibility of having nowhere to live and the opinions of other people-who dont want me to live with them. What does my husband legally have to pay-even if he is not in the property. Thank you.

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