Choosing the right professional support is one of the critical decisions you can make during a divorce and separation. Get it right, and you will be grateful for the rest of your life. Get it wrong, and the results can be catastrophic. It’s that important.

What to look for when appointing professional support?

Ideally you are looking for professionals who are going to support you to find amicable solutions so that you can avoid the stress, costs and delays in court. There are many different experts who can help you, you may find you need more than one. Doing your homework is key and we encourage you to take your time.

You will find a lot of support on this hub to help you in choosing the right professional support including: descriptions of all the professionals you can choose from, what they do, what they don’t do, why you might choose them, who else they work with, tips on how to choose the right one for you and a directory where you will find many to choose from.

Professions

Barrister

Barrister

Barristers are regulated specialist legal advisors, known for representing people in court making their case for them. Barristers have a degree in law or have taken an extra course to convert their non-law degree to a law one (known as the conversion course or Post Graduate Diploma in Law (PGDL)). They must pass the Bar Professional Training Course and the Bar Aptitude Test, be a member of an Inn of Court, attending training provided by them. They have completed a one year pupillage (working with and assisting a qualified barrister who will sign off on their competency.  What do Barristers do? The Bar Standards Board describes their role as follows: ‘Barristers are regulated specialist legal advisors and court room advocates. They can provide a range of services, including:

  • representing people in court making their case for them;
  • advising their clients on the strengths and weaknesses of their case; and
  • starting a legal proceeding in a court on behalf of their client (providing they are specially authorised by us to do so).  

There are strict rules about what a barrister must do for the court and their client and they way they must behave. Barristers are also able to be mediators and be involved in all non-court processes.   Queen’s Counsel or QCs are the most senior barristers.

Learn more
Chartered Financial Planner - IFA

Chartered Financial Planner - IFA

A financial planner or independent financial advisor can put into place any financial agreements you decide. What will you do with the pension share? What will you do with cash and shares? How will you invest any money you get for the future? But, more importantly, they can model any plans you have for settlement using financial modelling computer software. This is very helpful in working out a fair settlement. This kind of activity is regulated by the Financial Services Conduct Authority (FSA). Important to note, a lawyer is not allowed to advise you what to do with your money, where to invest it, or what shares to buy unless they are also regulated by the FSA.

Learn more
Clinical Psychologist

Clinical Psychologist

Child psychology is the study of how children interact with others and process the world around them. Child psychologists can make a tremendous difference in children's lives by helping them explore their feelings in a healthy way and overcome difficulties.

Learn more
Counsellor

Counsellor

Counsellors will have undertaken professional training and be registered with a relevant professional body. For example, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy register shows that they meet certain educational standards and abide by a code of ethics.  It’s the counsellor’s role to help people work out their feelings in relation to divorce or separation – this allows reflection on what is happening to them and consider alternative ways of doing things. Counsellors actively listen to you, offering time, empathy, and respect to talk about particular issues and problems, with the aim of reducing confusion and increasing ability to cope with challenges, and to make positive changes. Counsellors are impartial and non-judgemental, providing a safe and confidential environment to look at your own values and beliefs. They won’t give advice but will support you whilst you explore behaviour patterns and make your own choices. This may involve challenging your beliefs in order to help you see things from a different point of view. Usually, people see a counsellor for a limited period of time, especially in the context of divorce and separation.  When looking to appoint a counsellor you may want to consider their experience and specialism.

Learn more
Divorce Consultants / Coaches

Divorce Consultants / Coaches

We now are now in the very fortunate position where there is so much more choice for getting professional support during and after a separation or divorce. In this section, you will find more of a focus on the individual support that is available. A combination of Divorce Consultants and Divorce & Life Coaches and other more focused support.

Divorce consultants and coaches are quite new roles in the UK, there is no recognised route to becoming a divorce consultant/coach and the industry is unregulated. That said, most seek additional training and many will already have a related professional background. Their role is to help you consider and realise your goals. In this context, they will help you imagine your new life and to take the steps necessary to get there. They can also take a supportive role in many of the processes outlined on this Hub.

When looking to appoint anyone to support you through a divorce/separation it's important to consider their training, qualifications, and experience.

Learn more
Family Consultant

Family Consultant

Family consultants are specially trained to work with separating couples. They understand some of the legal process involved and they work closely with your lawyers. They will have at least a three-year background as a counsellor or therapist.  Family consultants can be involved at any stage of your divorce or separation journey. They work with you individually or together, both during and outside the mediation, collaborative, or other, meetings. The family consultant focuses on your psychological and emotional well-being. They will also try to help you work on sticking points or areas of disagreement. As the family consultant is therapeutically trained, they understand the psychological and emotional impact that separation has on you and your children. They may create mutual insight and help you to reach those really difficult decisions.  The family consultant will often and very helpfully attend the meetings you have with your lawyer: the collaborative meetings, round table meetings and /or mediation. Important to note though, that Family consultants will not offer or provide you with therapy.

Learn more
Family Mediator

Family Mediator

Family mediators are independent, professionally trained individuals who help you work out arrangements for children and finances following separation. Mediators can also be helpful when arrangements you’ve made before need to change, particularly as your children grow up. The mediator will help you find a solution which works for you both and will explain what needs to happen to make an agreement between you legally binding.

Learn more
Financial Coach

Financial Coach

This is a relatively new discipline and as such there are no formal qualifications. They can’t offer financial advice (like the IFA can) but can offer you financial information as it relates to your situation. They will help build your confidence in financial affairs. For example, they might help you work out what your future monthly outgoings will be. When looking to appoint a financial coach you may want to consider their experience and specialism.

Learn more
Legal Executives

Legal Executives

Legal Executives must become a fellow of The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx). This is attained by passing the CILEx professional qualification in law (equivalent to a law degree) and completing a minimum of three years of supervised legal experience. Legal executives are regulated by CILEx. Like solicitors, they can be partners in law firms and become judges. They also have rights of audience — are allowed to speak in court. They also advise on the law, draft papers and do all the things solicitors do.

Learn more
Paralegal (or ‘legal assistant’)

Paralegal (or ‘legal assistant’)

The Paralegal's main role is to help qualified lawyers. In the UK, paralegals are considered as non-lawyers, although the term ‘lawyer’ is not protected and therefore can be used by paralegals. The training for paralegals is not mandatory, but those who wish to have a professional career will engage in training and join the Institute of Paralegals which has its own code of conduct and offers its own complaints procedure. If a paralegal works for a firm of solicitors, they are regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.

Learn more
Pensions On Divorce Expert (PODE)

Pensions On Divorce Expert (PODE)

PODEs are specially qualified to provide you with a report to recommend a fair pension share upon divorce/dissolution. A report on your pension division is essential and not something to be skimped on because of time or costs.

Learn more
Psychotherapist

Psychotherapist

Psychotherapists work with you over a longer period for more deep-seated issues. They help with psychological issues that have been built up throughout your life. You will probably have to go back to your childhood and discuss different life circumstances up until the present day to see how you were shaped and influenced. In doing so, you will get a better understanding of your feelings, actions, and thoughts. If there are past traumas or life experiences that are holding you back, then they will work with you to help sort them out. This can enable you to cope with your family break up and prepare for the future.  When looking to appoint a psychotherapist ensure they are a member of a recognised professional body such as BACP and you may want to consider their experience and specialisms.

Learn more
Solicitor

Solicitor

All solicitors have a degree in law or have taken an extra course to convert their non-law degree to a law one (known as the conversion course or Post Graduate Diploma in Law (PGDL)). They will have passed the legal practice course and have spent two years as a trainee solicitor working in various seats to obtain key experience in contested (e.g. civil disputes) and non-contested work (e.g. wills and conveyancing). Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) and you can complain and or seek redress for any wrongdoing by the Legal Ombudsman and/or the courts. All solicitors are insured. What do Solicitors do? The Law Society describes their role as follows: ‘Solicitors represent and defend clients’ legal interests, and provide advice in many situations, for example, giving expert advice on everyday issues, such as dealing with relationship breakdowns. A Solicitor’s duties include:

  • researching cases and legislation;
  • drafting letters, contracts, wills and other legal documents;
  • liaising with clients and other professionals such as barristers;
  • representing clients in court.

Learn more

Related Articles

How Can I Prove I’m In A Coercive Relationship?

In the context of divorce and Children proceedings, it may be relevant to show that your former partner was/is coercively controlling In view of the o...

7 Things You’ll Want To Know If You’re Separating From A Narcissist

Breaking up is always hard to do but if you’re leaving a narcissist it can be off the scale Here’s how your break up will be differen...

How To Survive The Family Court Process

Family Court If you are in or heading towards family court, it is best to be prepared The journey can be long and draining so to be forewarned is fore...

What Is The Difference Between Arbitration And Mediation?

The process of separating and resolving finances and/or arrangements for children can be difficult, but family mediation and arbitration are different...

How Do I protect Myself As A Cohabitant?

How do I protect myself as a cohabitant Firstly it is important to take the time to discuss financial arrangements before taking this step of moving i...

McKenzie Friend

In England and Wales, a McKenzie Friend is a person who assists a litigant in person (someone who is representing themselves in court) during legal pr...

What Is The Law In Scotland?

There are many issues which separating parents need to bear in mind under Scots’ Law This article will address some of the most common queries W...

How Should I Prepare For A Meeting With A Professional To Save Time And Money?

So, you took the plunge and made the call You have an appointment with a solicitor How should you prepare and how can you save both time and mone...

What Does It Mean To Instruct A Solicitor?

Separating from your partner will inevitably mean going through some changes in your life which will often become more complicated when children ...

Attending Family Court When Representing Yourself

Attending court can be daunting The idea of representing yourself in court for any reason could be terrifying In the family courts, this is further co...

Should I Appoint A Barrister?

Not a lot of people know this, but since 2010 it’s been possible to appoint a barrister to advise or represent you without going through a solic...

Pension Sharing

KISS – the phrase “Keep It Simple Stupid”, whilst rather forthright, can be a reminder not to overthink some things when getting div...

Top Tips For Sorting Out Your Finances In The Early Days Of Separation

Separating or divorcing is a frightening time For most people, one of the biggest fears is how they will cope financially Money, and finances at the p...

(Almost) Anything But Family Court

Most of the public don’t realise that there are alternatives to family court or the traditional letter writing service offered by most lawyers&n...

The Solicitor Neutral

Solicitor Neutral Believe it or not, there is such a thing as a good divorce  If you and your partner want to separate well, consider using ...

The Family Mediator

What I do The questions, what is a family mediator, and what does a family mediator do are common questions for those just about to embark on the fami...

The Arbitrator

What I do What does an Arbitrator do As an Arbitrator I am appointed by a couple and make decisions that are be final and binding on both participants...

The Chartered Legal Executive

When I started working in family law, now over 15 years ago, the title Chartered Legal Executive was uncommon and commonly (and incorrectly) viewed as...

The Pensions On Divorce Expert

The term Pensions on Divorce Expert (PODE) is wide-ranging and encompasses those who write expert witness reports and those that don’t For the p...

The Financial Planner

What I do I work with both individuals on an advisory basis or couples on an information basis  For individuals, we start helping right at the be...

The Counsellor

What is a counsellor and what is counselling are good questions to ask As a Counsellor I offer compassionate, non-judgemental, and confidential assist...

The Family Barrister

What I do As a family barrister, my primary role is to represent individuals in legal proceedings related to family law matters This includes divorce,...

The Child-Inclusive Mediator

What I do What does the Child-inclusive Mediator do Child-Inclusive Mediators (CIMs) meet with children whose parents are in mediation so that the chi...

The Divorce Consultant

What I do A divorce consultant can serve many different purposes, but the focus is to provide support and guidance with both the personal and legal ch...

The Family Solicitor

What I do Good family lawyers are great problem solvers and will look to find ways to help resolve your issues in a prompt and cost-effective manner t...

How Do You Choose The Right Professional Support?

So, if you are separating and possibly considering divorce, how do you choose the right professional support for you  First, you n...

How Does Child Mediation Work?

When you separate there may be so many things to think about that it can feel very overwhelming As a parent, it is not unusual to be worried or concer...

How Can I Get The Most Out Of Mediation?

Once you’ve decided that family mediation is the right service for you, you have a number of practical things to consider But first and foremost...

How Can I Help My Children Cope With Stress?

Stressed people are often the last to recognise what is happening Our children are no exception Could my child be stressed Just because your daughter ...

The Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA)

The Independent Domestic Violence Worker (IDVA) works with Domestic Abuse victims that are deemed to be at high risk of harm or homicide and in additi...


External Resources

Family Mediation Council

The national website for the Family Mediation Council (FMC) - made up of national family mediation organisations in England and Wales

The Family Law Bar Association

Useful information on family barristers.

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

Good informative website about counselling and psychotherapy.