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News article

Impartial pension advice not sought in 96% of divorces

As another week began on Monday at Hudson Law, with the phone ringing constantly, I was reminded of an article in last Saturday’s Daily Telegraph.

Now with Britain’s spectacular sporting summer of victory and celebration still ringing in our ears, it feels very much as if the “autumn term has begun” and the reality of everyday life and all its ups and downs can no longer be kept at bay.

The article concerned comments on the large increase in instructions in divorce and family matters which family law firms can expect in September once the summer and family holidays are over. A feeling of “nothing more to look forward to” sometimes brings people face to face with their own unhappiness in the quality of their life, and, like Christmas, the effect of family holidays when people are thrown together without the distraction of work for a length of time sometimes just serves to highlight the glaring holes in their relationship.

It goes without saying that if you are thinking of separating and children, property and money are involved, both parties should seek independent legal advice from a family lawyer at the earliest possible time, preferably prior to separation. As one of the country’s leading firms of solicitors Mishcon de Reya point out “A specialist family lawyer can advise on the type of information about family finances that the economically weaker party should sensibly obtain in advance of separation to assist in negotiating a financial settlement. For example, pension savings are many couples’ second most valuable asset after the family home and should be considered as part of all divorce settlements”. However, Divorce LifeLine, claims that many of the 1.5 million divorces completed since 2000 failed to take pensions into account at all and, furthermore, that 96% of the divorce settlements Divorce LifeLine have looked at show that law firms have not commissioned the advice of an independent financial adviser or actuary to get an accurate valuation of the pension. This is a finding that Hudson Law finds astounding given the complexity of most pensions and their vital importance in any financial settlement agreed.

Maybe the moral of this story is to make sure you consult solicitors with specialist panel membership who have the knowledge and experience to advise you. I can hear alarm bells ringing for the reader who is probably thinking “specialist” – that sounds like expensive! But actually it does not need to be. Getting a divorce is not necessarily rocket science and many clients are able to do some of the work themselves. Find a firm which is happy to negotiate with you about what you can do for yourself and which services you need professional expertise with. This way you can agree a cost which is manageable and which leaves you in control.

Remember, it’s not just expertise that costs money, it’s also time, and if you and your separating partner or spouse are able to reach agreements about many issues yourselves then far less money is going to be wasted in solicitors’ fees – your solicitors may even be able to get round a table together and negotiate a final settlement.

Judi Lurie, Head of Resources, Hudson Law

Source: Daily Telegraph, Saturday 8th September 2012

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