Ian Walker - How too much advice too soon can make it harder to solve the problemFind out how getting too much advice too soon makes it harder to solve the problem!

When a relationship comes to an end it is a stressful time. There are lots of questions, such as;

• How could he/she do this to me?

• Can we save our relationship?

Where am I going to live?

• What am I going to do for money?

• Am I still going to be able to see my children?

• How can I make sure that my children and I are safe?

• How long is it going to take me to get this sorted out and how much is it going to cost? There are lots of legal issues, and so the obvious and natural thing to do is to see a Solicitor and get some legal advice.
This is a good idea, but getting too much advice too soon can make it harder to solve the problem!

A bold statement from a lawyer! How does this make sense?

Firstly some issues do need to be addressed quickly, namely;

• Safety issues [both adult and children]

• Establishing a holding position financially

• If safe to do so arrangements so children are able to see both parents.

Legal advice is needed to assist in making informed decisions, but then either or both need to take a breath and take stock;

• Do I want to try to save the relationship?

• If so will relationship counselling assist?

• Can we access other help to assist us decide what we want to do about the relationship?

There will be lots of emotions such as Anger, Fear, Hatred, Remorse, and Guilt.

Emotions can get in the way of making good decisions. With the wrong advice, people can make bad decisions which they later regret. Where it is safe to do so, we say it is better to take a breathing space and decide whether the relationship is over [for definite], and for it to be saved, both have to want to save it. Use this space to take relationship counselling and to allow emotions to subside [at least a little]

Now is the time to make long term decisions

The things that need to be thought about include; 58

• What do my children need in terms of housing, financial support, relationships, continuity?

• Where do I want to live?

• How is the other going to live?

• What can I do to improve my situation in the medium to long term and to help the other improve theirs?

• How do I deal with any safety issues? [Including if I have lost my temper, how do I stop that from happening again and demonstrate that I have made changes?]

Now is a better time to get legal advice about longer term issues, but getting too much advice can still make it harder to solve the problem!

Surely not?

Generally this is true!

The reason?

• The advice is only as good as the information being given to the Solicitor advising. The client may only have a partial picture. There is probably less money than they think, [although sometimes there can be more]

• The Law is not precise. In questions of both money and children, the law sets out a number of different principles. It is up to the Judge how to apply these. All cases are different and different factors will be important in a given case. The Judge has discretion. A different Judge may well come to a slightly different decision on the same facts to another Judge. In other words there is never a single fair solution to any situation

• What most clients want to know is the answer to the question; “am I going to achieve a fair outcome?” However because the answer to this question is a simple “yes” the Solicitor will normally answer the question “what am I going to get?” The Solicitor is trying to be helpful because they think they are answering the question that the client wants answered and because they feel the need to impress the client that they have the expertise that the client wants to see in order for the client to instruct them.

• The problem is that the advice is given on partial information and as a result it can raise/alter expectations which will make negotiations harder.

• By the time the case ends there can be subtle and unforeseen changes to the law and there can also be changes to the circumstances of either or both of the couple. Also it may be established that the true financial picture is quite different to what one or both thought it was.

• Clients generally want a fair outcome. However when both of a separating couple develop firm positions [which can be very different], they can actually find it much harder to negotiate constructively. 59

• Negotiations work better when those involved concentrate on what their interest are; [having a home, making the best possible arrangements for their children, having a steady and sufficient income etc] When couples focus on the broader picture it is often easier to work out specifics, in comparison to having too fixed a view on the specific outcome and defending a position which may be unrealistic.

• Too much advice too soon can discourage a problem-solving approach, increase animosity, cause more cost and get in the way of actually saving the relationship

You may have questions such as: What is unsolicited advice? What are the arbitration rules and procedures? What is the arbitration process step by step? Or can arbitration help in family disputes? We have created an FAQ’s page that can help answer those questions.