What Is One Couple One Lawyer?

One Couple One Lawyer is a service which enables a separating couple to jointly instruct one impartial barrister who can advise them both together as to what a Judge would consider fair in their circumstances.

Why Is Joint Impartial Legal Advice A Good Thing To Do?

A crucial point which many separating couples do not realise is that if you want any agreement you make as to the division of your finances or arrangements for your children on divorce to be binding, it must be converted into a Court Order. This is not a rubber stamp exercise. Before doing so, a Judge will need to satisfy themselves that the agreement is fair. To do so, in a finance case, a Judge will analyse a summary of your financial resources and then compare that to the proposed deal you have reached. If a Judge is not satisfied it is fair, the Order will not be approved.

So the sooner you both know what a Judge would consider fair in your circumstances, the sooner you can negotiate constructively in the safe knowledge that any deal you reach is not going to be rejected by a Judge.

Why Is One Couple One Lawyer A Better Option For Me?

Not all couples are suitable for One Couple One Lawyer (see below), but for most there are some huge advantages:

  • Reducing conflict: you find out, together, what a court would consider fair. You are then empowered to reach a fair deal, treating this aspect of divorce as a shared problem to be navigated rather than a contest.
  • Saving time: The ‘average’ divorce takes 14 months. The One Couple One Lawyer process lasts 6-8 weeks after which you will have bespoke, specialist advice.  The longer agreeing financial or child arrangements takes, the harder it can be to keep open lines of communication between the two of you (rather than through lawyers) and the harder it can become to make necessary concessions. Negotiating constructively is a good use of time, and we aim to enable you to do so within 6-8 weeks.
  • Cutting legal costs: The ‘average’ costs of a divorce are £30k, and if you end up in Court with lawyers on each side it can cost much more than that, with costs which are open ended and on hourly rates, so impossible to predict. The One Couple One Lawyer service is streamlined so that we can offer a fixed fee price, which starts at £4,750 per couple (plus VAT) for the entire process.

But Will My Individual Interests Be Looked After?

Our traditional, adversarial legal system involves each side being represented by separate lawyers who advise their respective clients as to what is in their interests and put that position to a Judge, who then makes a decision based on what they consider to be fair when applying the law to the facts of the case. Often, as you may imagine, each side pitches their case at each end of the bracket of outcome most favourable to them, and the Judge comes down somewhere between them.

In a One Couple One Lawyer process, the impartial advising barrister skips directly to the role a judge would take. We assist you in completing your financial disclosure and also setting out the issues which matter most to each of you and the outcomes you would each most like to achieve, so the barrister can look at them dispassionately and let you know how a Judge would be likely to react and what a fair outcome (in the eyes of the law) would look like.

How Do I Know Your Barristers Are Impartial?

All the barristers who advise for The Divorce Surgery are family law specialists who have been chosen because we believe they are some of the best in the business. Depending on the complexity of your situation, we will recommend a barrister of suitable seniority, up to Silk (QC) level. The Divorce Surgery was founded by two specialist family law barristers and they created this service from scratch, with their insiders’ knowledge of our existing system and what could be improved.

The barrister advising you both will never represent either of you going forwards: their only role is to advise you jointly. This gives them complete freedom to be as open and impartial as possible about what they believe a Judge would do on the facts of your case.

What Do I Do Once I Have The Advice?

The advising barrister meets you together for the Advice Session, then follows that up with a detailed 15-20 page written advice. The advice is privileged, which means that it is confidential to you both and cannot be disclosed in any future court proceedings. It can, however, be shown to any solicitors or mediators who may be assisting you.

We find couples who use the One Couple One Lawyer service tend to take one of the following steps after the Advice Session:

  • Reach an agreement between themselves along the lines of the advice given. In this case the final step is to get a Court Order drafted and approved by a Judge. The Divorce Surgery has an Orders Unit which can draft Court Orders for a fixed fee, or alternatively one of you can instruct a solicitor to do it for you; or
  • Engage a mediator to help them negotiate the final deal; or
  • Instruct a solicitor to review the deal from their individual perspective, or assist with final negotiations.

We find whichever route is taken, couples resolve the process much more quickly once they have found out, together, what a Judge would consider to be fair. They also feel much more empowered and in control of the process, which brings huge benefits in managing the stress of divorce proceedings.

Are We, As A Couple, Suitable For The One Couple One Lawyer Service?

Most but not all couples are suitable, and for this reason The Divorce Surgery offers complementary screening sessions, called Introductory Sessions, to any prospective couples informing them about the service but also assessing whether they are suitable. The key markers which will make couples unsuitable are where there are serious allegations of domestic violence, such that you would not feel safe in a room together, allegations of hidden assets, such that you cannot agree what the financial resources in the case really are, or jurisdictional issues.

Can All Lawyers Offer This Service?

No, which is why it has only been available recently. Solicitors are unable, due to their conflict rules, to advise a couple together. However, barristers are in a unique position and can offer joint, impartial advice to a separating couple together.

Why Has This Service Only Recently Become Available?

It’s not a new idea. In many other European countries the default starting point is for a separating couple to go to one lawyer who advises them both impartially, and only if they cannot agree do they go to two separate lawyers. It makes a lot of sense, and for many years solicitors have been exploring whether it is a service they could offer here, but they have been prevented from doing so by their conflict rules. Once we realised that barristers could offer the service, we knew we had to do something about it, and The Divorce Surgery was created to enable separating couples to access the service.

How Many One Couple One Lawyer Providers Are There?

At the moment, The Divorce Surgery is the only regulated provider of the service, however we use barristers from across the Family Bar to give our clients the best possible choice of advisers.

What Do Judges Think Of One Couple One Lawyer?

They are hugely supportive, recognising that the more that can be done to help couples resolve their disputes early, and by consent, the better the outcomes will be for their own wellbeing and that of their children.

The Divorce Surgery was listed as a member of the proposed Supporting Separating Families Alliance in Mr Justice Cobb’s recent Review of the Child Arrangements Programme, and in the Financial Remedies Courts Good Practice Protocol issued last month, Judges were reminded to be ‘ever-mindful of opportunities for the parties to engage in attempts to reach settlement of some or all the issues out of court by whatever means are suited to the case: Arbitration, Mediation, The Divorce Surgery and Private FDRs where available.’

The Divorce Surgery was awarded the Innovation of the Year Award at the 2019 Family Law Awards and Sir James Munby, former President of the Family Division, has endorsed the One Couple One Lawyer model as follows:

The Divorce Surgery is a striking example of what can be achieved by those with the vision to see outside traditional approaches. Samantha Woodham and Harry Gates are to be congratulated for their bold innovation, which we should all wish well and hope to see extended.” [2019] Fam Law 1452.

If you have more questions about this topic or any other legal issues arising on divorce or separation, please do get in touch as we are always happy to help. You can call us on 0203 488 4475 or email contact@thedivorcesurgery.co.uk.

Author Name: Editor
admin Published content by The Divorce Surgery Editorial Team.

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