A solicitor neutral is where a solicitor acts in a neutral and directive way to assist both of you. In the first instance, the solicitor neutral ought to carry out and record a risk assessment to make sure you are suitable for this process so you’ll likely need to meet with them on your own. Thereafter, the solicitor will guide you to providing and disclosing all relevant facts and documents needed.
It is very likely that the solicitor neutral will involve other experts to help you. If you are sorting out finances you may need the help of a PODE (pensions on divorce expert) to work out a fair division of the pension, someone to help with budgeting and to calculate how much money you both need.
You may need an accountant to work out any tax liabilities (income and capital gains tax etc) and to value businesses. You may also work with a family consultant or therapist to assist you through the process.
If you are trying to sort out arrangements for the care of the children then see a parenting expert or even work with a parenting co-ordinator. You would speak to the solicitor neutral who would guide you to a likely solution or range of solutions. You then decide which of the options works best for your family.
Most experienced solicitors (if they are not being positional) will agree on a likely outcome or outcomes in your case. The solicitor in a neutral role will need to have experience in helping couples in their joint discussions; they will most likely also be a mediator or collaborative lawyer.
The solicitor will then draft up the legal documents you need to make it legally binding or to obtain a court order (a consent order as it’ll be by consent) as is most appropriate.
If you can’t agree, the solicitor neutral can instruct more formally an arbitrator either within the process or on your own.
Yes: if you are both content that the other person will disclose all relevant information in good faith.
Yes: if you are prepared to listen to an experienced professional who can direct your thinking to relevant options.
No: if there is an international element to your case (e.g. where you have lived or if you have assets outside of England and Wales).
No: the solicitor has already given advice (positional advice) to one of you.
No: if there is a power imbalance in your relationship.
No: if there has been domestic abuse in your relationship including financial control.
No: where one person is exerting undue influence or putting the other person under duress to make the settlement they prefer.
No: if you are already in court.
No: if there is any allegation of child abuse or any likelihood of that happening.
No: if there is a hint that one person has not disclosed all the relevant information
No: if one person may have hidden assets.
No: where one person does not have the capacity to deal with it all (e.g. mental health difficulties).
No: where it’s not possible to find a trusted interpreter if there is a language barrier.
No: if there is likely to be drug or alcohol addiction.
It avoids the inadvertent conflict that happens when two solicitors are involved each representing their own client.
It is likely to be quicker.
It is likely to be much cheaper.
You can work creatively with someone who really understands family law and can guide you to a sensible solution.
It’s a private process so there is no need to worry about possible press involvement.
If the neutral solicitor doesn’t think your idea for settlement is realistic.
If there has been a power imbalance in your relationship which isn’t picked up by the solicitor neutral.
1. Do the emotional work with someone else first. It’ll save time and money when working with the solicitor neutral. Work with a family consultant or therapist to sort out the emotional fallout of the end of your relationship.
2. As always, do all the homework suggested by the solicitor neutral.
• at least 10 years’ post-qualified experience in family law;
• a member of Resolution;
• experienced in your kind of situation/case;
Sorting things out
• cross-qualified as a mediator (if possible be an accredited mediator); and
• cross-qualified as a collaborative solicitor.
Arbitration: if you can’t resolve all or some issues with the solicitor neutral.
Child Inclusive Mediation: to include your children’s voices.
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