There is a lot of legal information available on the World Wide Web and it can be a useful starting point for getting information and finding out about services. Berkeley Solicitors own site www.claim.co.uk that provides a useful guide to Divorce and family issues. However, family legal problems can have complex and unforeseen consequences for couples and their children. In these sorts of situations, there is no substitute for professional advice from a lawyer who will look at your particular circumstances and help you resolve the situation in a constructive and sensitive way.
The first step is to choose the right solicitor for you – someone who will provide reliable advice and understands that when decisions need to be made, they must be your decisions. They should also help you understand the consequences of decisions you take.
Adrian Berkeley is a member of the Law Societys Family Panel and can give you specialised advice in relation to all types of Family Law matters.
If your problem is urgent e.g. domestic abuse, child abuse, child abduction or disposal of assets, explain this when you make the appointment. If you just want some preliminary advice and you are not sure whether you will want to take it any further, Berkeley Solicitors provide a free initial interview. In the interview, we will assess how we may help you and advise you in relation to funding. However, we are not a charitable advice agency and once specific legal advice is required, we shall be entitled to deliver a bill to you for our time. Please ask for further details.
If you are eligible for help with legal fees through the Community Legal Service (formerly Legal Aid Board) you should inform our reception staff who will advice you of what information will be required for your interview. Before your appointment, think about the advice you need. You might find it helpful to make a note of the questions you want to ask so that you do not forget anything. It will help your solicitor if you collect together any documents or information you think might be useful.
If you have children, it would be better if you could ask a reliable friend or relative to look after them or collect them from school whilst you are seeing the solicitor. That way you can concentrate on finding out what you want to know.
At your first meeting, you can expect:
- an explanation of the Law Societys Family Panel Code of Practice and how the solicitor will approach your case;
- outline advice on the various ways of resolving your problem including using mediation and/or negotiation alongside court proceedings;
- a discussion about fees and the availability of Community Legal Service (formerly Legal Aid Board). Legal fees are related to the amount of time the case actually takes, but your solicitor should be able to give an estimate;
- an outline of the timescale for the work involved. This will vary according to your individual circumstances and the complexity of the problem.
After the first meeting, it may be difficult to remember all that is said. Sometimes it can be helpful to make notes as you go along or you could ask the solicitor to confirm their advice in a letter. If you decide to instruct the solicitor to act for you, the solicitor will give advice and you instruct him or her in the light of that advice. The solicitor will write letters and deal with court proceedings on your behalf and on your instructions. You should agree whether you want letters to be sent to you at your home address or somewhere else. You should agree with your solicitor the best way of keeping in touch – through telephone calls or further meetings – in order to keep costs to the minimum. Although it might seem obvious, you should tell your solicitor everything that is relevant to the problem. The advice he or she gives is based on the information he or she has at the time.
Family disputes can be very difficult. The emotional impact can leave you drained and the legal aspects can seem daunting and confusing. However, choosing a capable and sympathetic lawyer to guide you can go a long way to helping you resolve disputes and get on with life.