Divorce petition served, long separation, advice needed

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http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=5537868

I posted a few months ago about forthcoming divorce after a very long separation, the above links to that thread. The very premature arrival of my grandson, who then had several weeks in hospital, pushed all this into the background - baby, shocked DD and SIL are now home and doing well.



I have received a divorce petition by post. It gives 8 working days to return it. It says if I intend to use a solicitor the documents must be given to them to send the acknowledgement on my behalf. It asks if I intend to apply to the Court to consider my financial position as it will be after the divorce.
Does instructing a solicitor automatically mean I am applying to the Court?
I work full time and have to apply for time off. I rang for an appointment with the most local firm of solicitors for next week, already 8 working days since the petition arrived. This firm offers a free first half hour, or a first hour for under £100, and a fixed-fee divorce package, but surely this can’t mean they can give careful attention and advice in property and pension matters. Trawling G00gle I’m worried to see the person I’ve been booked to see qualified only 18 months ago and is hardly an experienced divorce lawyer, so on Monday I want to try for an appointment with a firm in town whose website at least inspires more confidence. Should I ask their hourly rate, whether individuals at the firm have different rates, what payment schedule I might expect – do they bill you for each visit straight afterwards, or monthly (for example)? I certainly need legal advice and I have no idea how much to expect to pay. Reading about 5-figure legal bills is terrifying.
My husband states that he intends to carry on paying the mortgage until it is cleared in 5 years. I am 60, on a low full-time wage, and could not take on the mortgage in my sole name. He does not want the building society to know we are divorcing. I think his intention is probably generous but there is no security, he is self-employed with no income protection insurance, and circumstances or intentions can change overnight. And… one of us could die during those 5 years.
We are joint owners of the family home, where I still live. We have a joint mortgage. We own it on a joint tenancy basis. We do not have wills. We were happy that on either death, the other would prioritise the kids. Now they’re grown up and may not need us, but it’s imperative to me that their inheritance is assured.
Presently if I died, my husband as joint tenant would inherit my half of the house. If he then died, still without a will, the kids would inherit his own house, and this one, or whatever was left if he’d sold it.
However, if he remarried and then died without a will, his new wife would inherit his half of my home – and I will not allow that possibility. We can change the type of ownership to tenants-in-common so my half could be left to my kids, but she would get his half.
I suspect it would be simpler for the divorce if this house was sold, but it is a non-standard property with structural as well as cosmetic issues, and a detailed survey now would show it as unmortgageable, as well as possible expensive implications for us and for the neighbours. I will have to get a valuation but am not confident selling is even a possibility in its current state, unless it sold at auction for a pittance.

This is where I need advice, but it doesn’t seem to come under the heading of the Court considering my financial position. I know my husband won’t fill in a form for financial disclosure, at least not truthfully, so they’d only have the information I can give them.
I am so scared that I will not be able to pay the solicitors, and worried about my husband’s reaction as he was determined to do a DIY divorce. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
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Comments

  • harrys_nan
    harrys_nan Posts: 1,777 Forumite
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    I'm sorry to hear what you are having to go through at the moment, I cannot help you at all, but have a look at the link I have posted.

    http://www.wikivorce.com/divorce/Divorce-Advice/
    Treat other's how you like to be treated.

    Harry born 23/09/2008
    New baby grandson, Louie born 28/06/2012,
    Proud nanny to two beautiful boys :j
    And now I have the joy of having my foster granddaughter becoming my real granddaughter. Can't ask for anything better

    UPDATE,
    As of today 180919. my granddaughter is now my official granddaughter, adoption finally granted
  • pphillips
    pphillips Posts: 1,631 Forumite
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    edited 11 February 2017 at 8:19PM
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    Basically the court are asking you to acknowledge the petition, you can do this yourself or employ a solicitor to do this for you. Instructing a solicitor does not mean that you are applying for the court to consider the finances as you normally have to go through mediation before the court will consider this and will involve making a separate application to the court. The court would then ask for you and your husband to provide a full financial disclosure. before arranging several hearings. If you want to employ a solicitor to fight your corner for you then you are looking at thousands or tens of thousands of pounds, depending on how willing your husband is to settle. If there is not much at stake then it might be better to to attend hearings yourself and only use the solicitor (if you need them) for paperwork. The question you need to ask yourself is how much are you realistically expecting to get out of this. I believe the position is that your husband can normally no longer inherit from your estate after divorce but it is important for you to get a will drawn up and signed as soon as possible.
  • twiglet98
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    Thank you, it's not really about wanting a solicitor to fight my corner - my husband is offering to pay the mortgage until it's cleared and then transfer the house to me. We would not bring pensions into the equation, nor our late parents' estates. There is no doubt that our finances are unequal - he is a big earner and big spender, I'm not, but it's a better deal than a lot of ex-wives get.

    I just think it leaves me very vulnerable. I need to find out how I can be protected in case his intention to pay the mortgage for the next 60 months goes pear-shaped. I need to find out if it would be wise to cash in my pensions and and see if that's enough to clear the mortgage so the house can go in my name now, and perhaps the amount he would have paid for the outstanding mortgage could come to me as I'd then have only state pension when I retire. I'm not sure a solicitor can answer that.

    Assuming the fixed-price divorce package isn't suitable here, how do solicitors tend to bill the client? Monthly, or after each session? I'm really worried how I will pay for it but I just don't think I can agree to the suggested settlement without advice on how to protect myself in the short term, and my kids' inheritance.
  • Savvy_Sue
    Savvy_Sue Posts: 46,107 Forumite
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    I do not think it would be wise to cash in your pensions without getting specialist pensions advice ... you would probably have to pay for that too, but regardless of what legal advice you get, you may need that too.
    Signature removed for peace of mind
  • pphillips
    pphillips Posts: 1,631 Forumite
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    edited 11 February 2017 at 11:51PM
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    Well if you are happy with what you have agreed with your husband then the best thing to do is get it finalised in a writing by a consent order, which is then lodged at the court. It will need say that you can apply to the court if he doesn't keep to his promise. You or your husband would need to get a solicitor to do this, best to shop around and get a fixed priced. Solicitors are supposed to send regular invoices.

    The only way to save your children from sideways disinheritance if your husband remarries and dies before signing over the house to you is if you and your husband sign over your house to the children or put it into trust.
  • twiglet98
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    pphillips wrote: »
    Well if you are happy with what you have agreed with your husband then the best thing to do is get it finalised in a writing by a consent order, which is then lodged at the court. It will need say that you can apply to the court if he doesn't keep to his promise. You or your husband would need to get a solicitor to do this, best to shop around and get a fixed priced. Solicitors are supposed to send regular invoices.

    The only way to save your children from sideways disinheritance if your husband remarries and dies before signing over the house to you is if you and your husband sign over your house to the children or put it into trust.

    I haven't agreed anything with my husband yet, he has simply set out his settlement terms and his desire to do this without solicitors and without informing the building society.

    I hadn't thought of putting it into a trust, I don't know how that works. There is probably some sort of loophole but I will certainly ask whichever solicitor I end up with if it's something we could look at, thank you for the heads-up.
  • pphillips
    pphillips Posts: 1,631 Forumite
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    A trust is something the solicitor would have to set up as part of the divorce settlement for your children's benefit but that you could live in the house for the rest of your life. It is expensive to set up but saves money in the long term by safeguarding your assets for the next generation.
  • TBagpuss
    TBagpuss Posts: 11,205 Forumite
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    TO answer some of your questions.

    A fixed fee divorce usually refers to the divorce itself, financial issues are separate. Where a financial agreement has already been reached, some solicitors will offer a fixed fee for drawing up the agreement into n order for you, but if you want advice about it then usually you will pay an hourly rate.

    Different solicitors will have different arrangements about when they bill you. You can ask about this when you first meet with them.

    If you and your husband were to agree that he will pay the mortgage for the next x years and then transfer the house, that agreement can be set out in legally binding order. This could include having a declaration of trust within the order making it clear that the property is held on trust for you as sole beneficial owner (i.e. that his name may be on the deeds, but that he (which would include his estate) has no claim on the house.

    You could also explore other options - for instance, if he is willing to cover those costs, is it an option for him to take / extend a mortgage on his property, so that the house can be transferred now rather than later?

    Also, do make sure that you get proper disclosure so you have a clear idea of the value of all the assets, including his pensions and any savings or property, and get advice about what is fair and reasonable.

    Your husband's wish to do this without solicitors may be a red flag. If he thinks his proposal is really fair and reasonable then he will have no objection to you wanting to get proper advice from a solicitor.
    All posts are my personal opinion, not formal advice Always get proper, professional advice (particularly about anything legal!)
  • twiglet98
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    I'm jotting down notes to take to my first meeting with the solicitor, thank you all for giving me so many tips.

    The person I'm set to see this week seems only recently qualified from her company profile and I don't know whether to stick with it as it's the most local, or travel further for a firm with a more informative website and staff profiles showing they're reassuringly experienced. I don't feel very comfortable with someone younger than my children advising me! Perhaps a relatively inexperienced lawyer would refer to more senior staff for advice outside her scope. I hate feeling negative before even meeting her but it's going to be hard enough paying for this without chopping and changing. The petition says it must be returned within 8 working days so I don't have time to shop around anyway. I feel sick and panicky and want to hide from it all.

    I haven't told my ex that I am going to a solicitor. He will not be told to complete any disclosure forms and is determined not to incur any legal fees other than the actual divorce documents that he had to pay for. It's going to be messy and expensive and the only way round that is for me to say yes to his suggestion and hope for the best - but that's a risk I don't want to take.
  • kiddy_guy
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    Also if the house is unmortgageable and has limited value, is his offer a fair one?
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