National law firm Simpson Millar has launched a one-lawyer divorce service for couples engaged in an “amicable resolution”.
Partner Lorraine Harvey said the service, called Separating Together, was part of a trend towards “less stressful divorces”, likely to accelerate with the introduction of no-fault divorce in April.
In November, the Resolution family lawyers group predicted a future where lawyers would act for both sides of divorces as a matter of course.
Representation of both parties has already begun, as a service offered by London firm Withers, as well as solicitor-led divorce surgery and out-of-court unregulated cases.
In 2020, a senior High Court judge granted declarations that made it clear amicably did not breach conflict of interest rules by acting for both husband and wife.
Ms Harvey said a single lawyer could act for both parties “when they want to deal with things as amicably as possible”. If there was a conflict or a breakdown in the relationship during the process, they would need alternative counseling.
“We are clear with them that this is an amicable solution on a voluntary basis without legal proceedings. They must be a couple who want to remain friends.
After an initial assessment, the couples sign a declaration agreeing to divorce amicably.
Ms Harvey said the new service was both cheaper and faster than the conventional approach. Flat fees are available, assessed on an individual basis, or clients can pay hourly rates.
The firm’s website gives an example of how they could save £1,000 by using Separating Together, reducing the total cost to £6,200, mainly by removing the need for two lawyers to work separately on the financial settlement.
Ms Harvey said the new service had completed two divorces since it launched late last year, in one case after just seven weeks, although it was probably one of the fastest cases.
She said the final deal had to be approved by the court and a more common time frame was likely two to three months.
“I often get contacted by people who say ‘we have reached an agreement’, and they often ask me why they need two lawyers.
“I think there will be a trend towards conflict-free and less stressful divorces. It’s a more economical way to end the marriage.
“It can help couples to co-parent and maintain a reasonable relationship. We are getting more and more inquiries about this. »
Ms Harvey said that with the introduction of no-fault divorce, separating couples would no longer have to wait two years or blame the other person for unreasonable behavior or an adulterous relationship.
She said the more people knew they could only have one lawyer, the more they would be attracted to this one.
A survey by Simpson Millar early last year of 1,000 adults in the UK who had divorced or were about to divorce found that three-quarters (74%) wanted to “keep it civil”.
A majority (54%) said they would have been happy to use the same lawyer if it had saved them money, while a quarter (26%) said they thought the he use of a single lawyer, who represented both parties in the divorce, could have made the process more amicable.