Couples share same lawyer under innovative scheme

12 January 2023

An innovative Midlands law firm has introduced a new model of working which allows a couple to separate using the same lawyer.

Higgs LLP has launched ‘Separate Together’ for people who want to manage their separation or divorce together rather than instructing individual solicitors, saving time and money.

Philip Barnsley, Head of Family Law at Higgs, said the landmark move would be welcomed by people looking to separate amicably.

“For the right people, Separate Together will help people legally part ways quicker and more cost effectively,” said Philip.

“Amicable divorce is certainly the direction of travel for the Government and society in general. People don’t want costly legal battles and they want to put the needs of any children at the forefront.

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“For the right couples, one solicitor for two clients has huge advantages.”

Philip Barnsley

Head of Family Law, Higgs LLP

The move follows lobbying by family lawyers group Resolution, which worked with Timothy Dutton KC to develop a scheme to allow a single lawyer to act for both parties upon separation.

Philip added: “This is about supporting people who want to do things the right way, not just for financial reasons but also for their physical and mental health and for the benefit of any children.

“In order for couples to work this way, they must give their informed consent to disclosing all the relevant factual and financial information required in order to reach decisions together.”

One solicitor for two clients has worked in Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, among others, for some time, with people only referred to separate lawyers when they can’t agree.

Philip said instructing a single solicitor would not be suitable for cases where there has been any abuse, safeguarding or capacity concerns, or where there is a significant power imbalance.

It would also not be appropriate where there are issues around mental or emotional health or substance misuse, where one person isn’t prepared to negotiate or feels under duress, or where either person is likely to hide information, especially about finances.

“This isn’t for everyone, but for some it will make the process much more palatable,” said Philip.

“We will sit down with the separating parties and determine whether they are suitable to share a solicitor.

“We are proud to be amongst the first firms in the country to offer this service. It fits in with our long-standing commitment to helping people separate better.”

This latest change in separation rules comes hot on the heels of the no-fault divorce reform introduced in April this year, which allows couples to legally divorce without apportioning blame for adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

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