Divorce can be a complex and expensive process with the potential for a lot of conflict. Having the right lawyer can make a significant difference and, following recent changes to UK divorce law, separating couples can now benefit from working with the same lawyer. This is known as the ‘one couple, one lawyer’ approach or ‘joint representation’.
What does the one couple, one lawyer approach to divorce involve?
Simply put, the one couple, one lawyer approach means that both spouses are represented by the same lawyer for their divorce. This lawyer can advise on the divorce application (which can be completed jointly by the couple or by a single spouse), as well as the division of finances and arrangements for children.
Why has this new approach to divorce been introduced?
UK divorce law changed in April 2022 when the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 came into effect. The reforms were intended to modernise divorce and remove the potential for unnecessary conflict, for example, by getting rid of the need to assign blame for the failure of the marriage as part of the divorce application (i.e. ‘no fault divorce’).
The one couple, one lawyer approach is intended to further simplify the divorce process for couples and remove a potential source of conflict by having both people represented by the same lawyer. This approach is supported by leading family law network Resolution through their Resolution Together initiative.
Is joint representation the same as a joint application?
Joint representation and joint applications are different things that both relate to the divorce process. Joint representation means one lawyer representing both spouses while a joint application is where the couple both complete the divorce application together, rather than one spouse making the application alone (a ‘sole application’).
Why use the same lawyer for both spouses in divorce?
The one couple, one lawyer approach offers a number of benefits, including helping to:
Simplify divorce proceedings
Having one solicitor support both of you can make your divorce more straightforward by avoiding the need for a lot of back-and-forth between different solicitors. This can make the process much less hassle for you as well as potentially speeding up proceedings.
Minimise divorce costs
If you instruct one solicitor to act for both of you, then you will only be paying one set of legal fees rather than two. This can save you money and may allow you to pay for higher level divorce expertise that might be less affordable for each of you individually.
Using the same solicitor avoids a lot of potential for conflict. This is because you will have one person working to secure the best outcome for both of you in a fair way, rather than two different people both trying to get the most they possibly can for their respective clients.
How will any disputes be resolved?
Should there be any points of disagreement during your divorce, there are several different options for finding a solution. Often, it is possible to simply discuss the matter in a constructive way with the impartial advice of your solicitor to agree a solution. In other circumstances, alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation may be appropriate.
Is joint representation always suitable for divorce?
While the one couple, one lawyer approach is likely to be a good option for most divorces, there may be some circumstances where it might not be appropriate. This includes where the relationship between the spouses is highly acrimonious and in situations where there have been allegations of domestic abuse.
We will be happy to advise on your situation and whether we think joint representation may be right for your divorce during your initial consultation with a member of our team.
How to choose the right lawyer for your divorce
Whether you are using the one couple, one lawyer approach or need your own individual representation for divorce, it is important to pick the right solicitor to represent you.
While we hope you will choose to work with Sharp Family Law, if you wish to shop around, we recommend looking for the following:
- Specialist experience with divorce – You should look for a solicitor who specialises in divorce and family law, rather than a generalist who may not have extensive experience with these complex matters.
- Expertise in dealing with divorces similar to yours – e.g. high value assets, international divorces etc.
- Resolution membership – at Sharp Family Law, all of our lawyers are Resolution members and follow the Resolution Code of Practice.
- Independent accreditation – e.g. both our firm and individual members of our team are ranked for Family/Matrimonial Law by leading client guide Chambers & Partners and for Family Law by the Legal 500.
It is also really important to find a lawyer that you feel comfortable with and whose approach suits you, so it is always sensible to have an initial conversation with a divorce lawyer before choosing them as your representative.
Speak to our family law specialists in Bristol, Bath and Bradford-on-Avon
At Sharp Family Law, we understand how difficult divorce can be. Our team can provide sympathetic support and clear, practical guidance to individuals and couples, helping to make divorce simpler while ensuring you get the best outcome for your future and that of your family.
We have offices in Bath, Bristol and Bradford-on-Avon. Our clients can expect constructive, clear and friendly assistance from our family law and divorce solicitors who will give you all the support you may need.
If you need legal assistance with any matters related to divorce and separation, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can call your local office.